Julie Gay

Beyond the Major and the Minor: R.L. Stevenson’s Pacific Islands as Literary Third Spaces

Sailing away from the “mainland”, Stevenson first crossed the Atlantic and then the Pacific to spend the final years of his life in Samoa. It is my contention that these spatial crossings led him to go beyond traditional dichotomies by locating his fiction in the hybrid space of the island, which is represented in his South Sea Tales as a contact zone1 between races, cultures and even epochs. This apparently “minor” space can therefore be interpreted as a form of “third space” (2) allowing Stevenson to subvert major discourses, be it the imperial discourse through the foregrounding of “minor” voices, but also the dominant late-nineteenth century assumption of the realist novel’s superiority as a form, through the creation of what we could define as realistic tales. By constructing the island as a contact zone between the real and the imaginary, and hence between the so-called minor genre of the tale and the “major” realist novel, Stevenson thus managed to open a third space for fiction, resorting to what Gilles Deleuze defines as the force of creativity and proposition of the minor key (3).

Julie Gay, Université Bordeaux Montaigne – Université de Poitiers

1 Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone”. Profession (1991). 33-40.
2 Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. 218.
3 Deleuze, Gilles. Capitalisme et Schizophrénie 2 : Mille Plateaux. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1980. 132-34.