Aiding and Abetting Survival: Americanizing Robinson Crusoe through AdaptationDefne Ersin Tutan
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) has been insistently adapted to both the big screen and TV throughout the 20th century and well into the 21st, the earliest version dating back to 1902 and the most recent to 2016. Although a full list of all versions would be elusive and also redundant, almost 50 adaptations are readily available for viewing and/or for analysis. Moving away from the ‘fidelity’ criticism in the earlier vein of adaptation studies and proceeding from the argument that all adaptations are essentially rewritings, alternative ways in which the source text may be reconstructed in an ultimately intertextual framework, this paper scrutinizes American screen adaptations of Robinson Crusoe, namely Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Dir. Byron Haskin, 1964), Lt. Robinson Crusoe, U.S.N. (Dir. Byron Paul, 1966), and Cast Away (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 2000). Far from shedding new light on an almost-exhausted source text, these rewritings reflect more about their own discourses, relating to the historical and social contexts of their own making. In so doing, they ‘Americanize’ Robinson Crusoe. As such, three centuries after its publication, Robinson Crusoe is still being repeatedly reinvented and reconstructed in film, and this analysis investigates the dialogical relations among these adaptations while, at the same time, emphasizing how every new adapted version of a work of literature aids and abets the survival of its source text.