A born-translated fairy tale: transcultural readership and anti-exoticism in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Bottle Imp”




Parole chiave:

Robert Louis Stevenson, Pacific writings, exoticism, colonialism, born-translated literature, world literature


The six years Robert Louis Stevenson spent in the Pacific region offer a particularly stark contrast with his received image as an uncommitted romancer (and hence, in the context of British colonialism, as a tacit supporter of imperialism). His Pacific writings are the work of a powerfully realist writer, with strong interests in ethnography and local history, engaged in the political life of the region, and an active supporter of the native populations in their opposition to imperial rule. In this article I focus on "The Bottle Imp", a short story that, at first sight, constitutes a less confrontational, more accommodating literary project if compared with most of Stevenson's production on the Pacific. However, not only does this text encapsulate several elements of the poetics that characterize Stevenson's Pacific writing, but it is also the only work of Stevenson's career to be conceived for a Polynesian audience, which adds a significant layer of complexity to its analysis. I argue that with this work Stevenson creates a "born-translated" fairy tale, which results in the adoption of specific narrative techniques and in a particular declination of Stevenson's political agenda and anti-exoticist strategies. This, in turn, means to frame "The Bottle Imp" within some of the current debates on the global circulation of literature and its effect on the politics, ethics and aesthetics of literary texts.



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Biografia autore

Lucio De Capitani, Università Cà Foscari di Venezia

Lucio De Capitani is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern Languages, Cultures and Societies at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice. His interests include colonial, postcolonial and world literatures (with a particular focus on anglophone South Asian literature) as well as their interconnections with anthropology. He published essays on Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai and Robert Louis Stevenson. His research project involves the mapping of anthropological imagination in European and South Asian writers.




Come citare

De Capitani, Lucio. 2018. «A Born-Translated Fairy Tale: Transcultural Readership and Anti-Exoticism in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Bottle Imp”». Altre Modernità, febbraio, 197-211. https://doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/9786.



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