Nat W. Hardy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Richard Morton




For a story which has been described as "one of the most successful literary hoaxes in the English language," Henry Neville's The Isle of Pines has received little critical attention. This thesis will exhume this long-forgotten story by acknowledging the radical fecundity and complexity of a groundbreaking novella in English literary history. Similar to the settlers of the Imperial British Empire, who began to record their own histories, the fictional history of George Pines is also transmitted to England following one-hundred years of isolated, albeit accidental occupation, making it one of the first post-colonial texts. For my critical analysis of the text, my theoretical method employs the post-colonial theories of Bill Ashcroft and Frederic Jameson, and for the sexual themes in the text I use theory of Michel Foucault and Jonathan Dollimore.

For purposes of analysis, I consider the story an androcentric utopia and I examine the text from this assumption. Chapter one examines the rhetorical mode of the pamphleteer. Neville, like his contemporaries uses rhetorical tricks such as exotic locations with exotic descriptions, epistolary testimonials, explicit geographical details and illustrations to persuade the reader that the narrative is factual and not fictional. In chapter two, I discuss the politics of colonization where English absolutist and patriarchal social structures are draconically maintained on the exotic locale of the island. When the utopia is threatened order is quickly restored - "restoration" of order is the key metaphor in this chapter. Chapter three deals with Neville's political and pornographic agenda. The exoticness of the story introduces both polygyny and interracial sexual relations as well as sexually charged diction to convey meaning. Although Neville's text can be interpreted in a number of different ways, the intention of the final chapter and this thesis is to focus on the erotic level to which the text engages the reader.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."