Configurations of Friday

deadline for submissions: 
January 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
ESSE 16 conference, Mainz, Germany

Call for seminar presentation proposals at the 16th ESSE (European Society for the Study of English) conference (Mainz, Germany, 29 August-2 September 2022)

The role of Friday is a curiously liminal one in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as well as many other Robinsonades from the 18th century to the present: a central figure of the story, he nonetheless often finds himself relegated to the role of the hero-castaway’s foil, a cultural or racial other. Regardless of whether he is admired or condescended to, discourses around Friday will frequently (if sometimes unintentionally) mirror respective ages’ attitudes towards colonialism and racial identity. While the centrality of Friday is never in doubt in Robinsonade criticism, he is rarely made the focus of sustained discussion.

In view of Friday’s liminal status both in the Robinsonade and in Robinsonade criticism, this seminar will discuss this character not only in terms of his cultural and social relationship with various Robinsons down the ages but as a spiritual, psychological, and not least material presence in his own right. The seminar provides an opportunity to establish Defoe’s Friday as a deeply complex presence in the 1719 novel before moving on to other contexts in which Friday-like figures are characterised through their physicality as well as through their back-stories, the spaces they occupy and the language and customs they bring to their encounters with their respective Robinsons. While their overall roles in texts from the eighteenth century to the present day are doubtless characterised by their Robinsonian encounters, this seminar focuses on the presentation of Fridays as characters in their own right, and invites paper contributions from scholars interested in this type of refocalisation: from discussions of the colonial experience and how this is inscribed on various Fridays’ minds and bodies to a re-evaluation of Friday’s loyalty, agency, and presumed subservience. From gender discourse around a number of “Girl Fridays” to more widely expounded ideas of otherness; from ecocritical approaches regarding Friday and his space in the environment to approaches taken from animal studies and applied to adaptations in which the role of Friday is taken up by a pet or wild animal. This seminar offers plenty of scope for a long overdue discussion of one of world literature’s most familiar yet also most enigmatic characters.

Possible topics in film, television, art, literature, and gaming include but are not limited to:

-Friday as physical, cultural, linguistic other

-The idealised beauty and strength of Friday in various contemporary discourses (noble savage, etc.)

-Friday as a scarred and mutilated locality of colonialism’s inhumanity

-The reconfiguration of Friday into animal or inanimate subject

-The reconfiguration of Friday in terms of gender

-The perceived threat of Friday as unknowable presence in the story

-The subjugation of Friday or portrayals of his physical, moral or intellectual superiority to his “master”

-The adoption by Friday of the language and customs of the coloniser

-Ideas of Friday’s agency and decision-making

-Friday in relation to his environment

-Stylistic analysis of the Friday figure’s language in various Robinsonades

-Narratological shifts centring the Robinson story around Friday

Jakub Lipski, Kazimierz Wielki University, Bydgoszcz, Poland
Patrick Gill, JGU Mainz, Germany

Participants of ESSE 16 need to be paid-up members of their respective national association. For more information on the conference see:

Abstracts should be submitted to by 31 January 2022