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Robinson Crusoe (1719) - Daniel Defoe

Related: Daniel Defoe - 1700s - novel - British literature - literature - UK

Robinson Crusoe (1719) - Daniel Defoe
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The English novel's beginnings were not entirely prestigious. Due to the public's disapproval of "invented" stories, Daniel Defoe, Tobias Smollett, Henry and Sarah Fielding and their contemporaries labeled their fictions as "histories," "lives," "memoirs," "voyages," "travels" and "adventures." A number of these works were indeed based upon truth, but so greatly embellished that the appeal was the same as that of total imagination. --gale.com [Nov 2005]

The book is a fictional autobiography presented to its public as a true story. this device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a "false document", and gives a realistic frame to the story. It wants to fool the audience into thinking that what is being presented is actually a fact. [Jan 2007]

A key concern in terms of the development of the eighteenth century novel is the recurring preoccupation with realism, and realistic depiction of society. This is seen in Defoe's and Fielding's preoccupations with the word "History" (and the need to defend themselves against accusations of lying, and in their attempts to make their works as realistic as possible, whether by using first person narration as in Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe, or by relying on Aristolean notions of "mimesis". An alternative tactic was to use epistolary form, most notably in the works of Richardson, (and burlesqued by Fielding in Shamela), or to use consciously anti-romance forms as a means of asserting the realism of their writing. The predeccessor here had been Cervantes, in his anti-romance, and the tradition continues in Middlemarch, where George Eliot uses phrases such as the "home epic" as a means of affirming the value of the presentation of ordinary experience. One way of asserting the value of the new novel technique was to show how its fidelity to the "real" was more accurate than ealier forms, such as romance, chronicle, fable. --http://www.newi.ac.uk/rdover/nov18c.html [Jan 2007]


Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English. The book is a fictional autobiography of Crusoe, the eponymous hero, a castaway on a remote island. Its full title is The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pirates. Written by Himself. This device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a "false document", and gives a realistic frame to the fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Crusoe [Sept 2005]

Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was everything but a novel, as the term was understood at the time. It was neither short, nor did it focus on an intrigue, nor was it told for the sake of a clear cut point. Neither was Crusoe an anti-hero of a satirical romance, though he spoke the first person singular and had stumbled into all kinds of miseries. He did not really invite laughter (though readers of taste would read, of course, all his proclamations about being a real man as made in good humour). The feigned author was serious: Against his will his life had brought him into this series of most romantic adventures. He had fallen into the hands of pirates and survived years on an uninhabited island. He had survived all this—a mere sailor from York—with exemplary heroism. If readers read his work as a romance, full of sheer invention, he could not blame them. He and his publisher knew that all he had to tell was strictly unbelievable, and yet they would claim it was true (and if not, still readable as good allegory)—the complex game which puts this work into the fourth column of the pattern above. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novel#The_Second_Rise_of_the_Novel_or_the_New_Romance.2C_1700-1800 [Sept 2005]

The publication of Robinson Crusoe did not lead into the mid-18th century market reform. Crusoe's books were published as a dubious histories; they played the game of the scandalous early 18th century market, with the novel fully integrated into the realm of histories. They even appeared reprinted by one of the London newspapers as a possibly true relation of facts. Philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau turned Robinson Crusoe into a classic decades later, and it took another century before one could see Defoe's book as the first English "novel"—published, as Ian Watt saw it in 1957, as an answer to the market of French romances. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novel#To_be_Discussed:_The_Novel_turning_into_Literature.2C_1740-1800 [Sept 2005]

See also: UK - novel - 1700s

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