“The southern unknown countries”: Imagining the Pacific in the Eighteenth-Century Novel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


British enthusiasm for Pacific exploration persisted after the collapse of the South Sea Bubble in the autumn of 1720. Taken together, several works of fiction of the 1720s such as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Daniel Defoe's Captain Singleton and A New Voyage Round the World, supplement traditional histories of the novel by making problematic the ways in which early eighteenth-century fiction became entangled with visions of the South Seas as a crucial theater for expanding Britain's economic and naval power. These works proved crucial in structuring both the wishful thinking that motivated British voyages to the Pacific and the satiric skepticism that these unrealistic expectations provoked. Gulliver's trip to Japan represents a telling disruption of Eurocentric discourses of imperialism, techno-military supremacy, and religious authority. Given England's fascination with the Pacific in the wake of James Cook's voyages, the Southern unknown Countries were the early locations of its transformation into an arena of colonial conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of the English Novel
EditorsRobert L Caesario, Clement Hawes
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139013796
ISBN (Print)9780521194952
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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