Piffling: Differential Geography, Islandness and a Fictional Channel Island


  • Henry Johnson University of Otago




Wooden Overcoats is an independent comedy fiction podcast from 2015 about rival funeral homes set on the fictional island of Piffling. Study of the podcast offers a window into contemporary fictional Channel Island representation, a critique of which can help in comprehending the space and place of islands in literary studies more broadly. This article explores Wooden Overcoats in terms of small island representation (i.e., islandness) and how this contributes to discourse in the field of Island Studies. Focus is given to the ideas of differential geography, islandness and a fictional Channel Island. The podcast’s metaphorical language is deconstructed within a dialectics of space and place in order to foreground signifiers of cultural meaning that can help uncover meaning about the ontology of islands and the epistemology of islandness. Contrary to the cliché of social island insularity, Wooden Overcoats presents Piffling’s islanders as mostly open-minded and welcoming of outsiders. However, while the idea of ‘converse parody’ offers a surface-level depiction of islandness, this method of representation actually helps to reinforce the stereotype it’s aiming to counter. Whether remote, hostile or paradisiacal, islands have a character that can capture the creative imagination. Such inventiveness is played out in Wooden Overcoats in two main ways: (i) the island of Piffling is presented as central to the storyline, which portrays the lives of its islanders; and (ii) the social dynamics of Piffling are presented as a converse island parody in that the story portrays islanders in ways that refute stereotypical depictions that are typical in everyday discourse about island society.

Author Biography

Henry Johnson, University of Otago

Henry Johnson is Professor of Music at the School of Performing Arts at the University of Otago.