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The immediate and immense success of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719 gave rise to a flow of new publications, inspired by Robinson Crusoe’s adventures, or by the success of Defoe’s book. In the following centuries hundreds of robinsonades were published. Most of them were written by male authors and told the stories of male shipwrecked or other male adventures.  As a genre, the robinsonade is thus usually understood – although implicitly – in highly gendered masculine terms: this is the story of a male hero’s fight for survival in a nature which at first sight seems hostile, but which can be mastered. And it is closely related to narratives of travel, discovery and sea adventures in which male authors and male heroes predominated. However, the robinsonade is not that unigendered as canonical literary history seems to imply: From early eighteenth century up to the present, women have read, written and been protagonists in castaway stories.These stories are not as numerous as the male robinsonades, but they are many enough to make also “female robinsonades" an important current within European literary culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

This website includes a bibliography of female robinsonades from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The bibliography is elaborated by Anne Birgitte Rønning, Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Oslo, to present book historical research on the genre and to facilitate further research. Questions, comments and suggestions are welcome. Please contact me:

The readers

 Daniel Defoe's novel found a large public, in England and in all other European countries. By the end of the 18th century the robinsonade became a major genre of juvenile fiction. This development was influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau who in Emile (1762) had claimed Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) to be the only book worth reading for his pupil. The first successful adaption of Defoe's work for children was Campe: Robinson der Jüngere (1779-80). In his work, the group of readers is inscribed in a frame narrative: a father reads the story to his wife and children who respond to the story by commenting upon Robinson's life and behaviour. Campe's adaption of Robinson Crusoe was followed by a large number of works, by both male and female authors, with young castaways, written  especially with children and young people in mind. The criteria for deciding if a book is written for a juvenile readership must be a combination of factors: story elements (young protagonist, educational discourses) and paratexts, such as title and subtitle, publishing house, series for children, font size and number of illustrations.

The authors

Robinsonades circulated, often quite freely, without reference to a specific or identifiable author. Or the author’s name got lost in translation.  So far, the bibliography comprises the works of ca. 40 female authors, 15 male authors, and 25 anonymous authors. Social position and motives for writing robinsonades in particular vary according to gender, nationality and historical situation. The women writers are baronesses, teachers, editors, wives and daughters of scientists and ship captains; some of them are professionals, writing to earn their life, often also active as translators; others do not write more than one book. The robinsonade genre must have been an interesting script, permitting both adventures, emotions and reasoning on education. Read more

The genre

A robinsonade is a story of a survival on a (more or less) desert island, usually after shipwreck; modelled on Defoes Robinson Crusoe.The word robinsonade was first used in 1731... Read more

A female robinsonade is a robinsonade written by a female author and/or telling the story of female castaway(s). The term was first coined by Jeannine Blackwell in an article from 1985. Read more

The robinsonade genre is usually divided in two sub-catgeories: "real" robinsonades, and "pseudorobinsonades". A pseudorobinsonade is a survival story which affiliates to the robinsonade genre by the title, but in which the protagonist's name of "Robinson" is metaphorical -  because there is neither shipwreck nor desert island. In the works included in this bibliography there are Robinsons stranded in a Russian forest, in the Alpes, on the American prairie or, even, in the middle of Le jardin des Tuileries in Paris.

The heroes

 " Legendary heroines also made their way into the proto-novel: contrary to the findings of most scholars of the Robinsonade, there does indeed exist a corpus of female Robinsonades. Between 1720 and 1800 over sixteen female castaways appeared in German fiction, followed by at least three French, three Dutch, three British and one American variation of the genre"

(Jeannine Blackwell: "An island of her own. Heroines of the German Robinsonades from 1720 to 1800", 1985)

More numerous than the 26 heroines counted by Blackwell in 1985, the female castaways still represent a minority among Robinsons, and very often quite out of place. With a European girl's education they were usually less fit for life in the desert than their male counterparts. Read more


Bibliography, other information

References (bibliographies and other sources)

Further reading