Robinson Crusoe

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Robinson Crusoe:

Robinson Crusoe Birth of the Novel


Novel Def. (M. H. Abrams): “The term novel is now applied to a great variety of writings that have in common only the attribute of being extended works of fiction written in prose. […] [I] ts magnitude permits a greater variety of characters, greater complication of plot (or plots), ampler development of milieu, and more sustained exploration of character and motives than do the shorter, more concentrated modes.

The Reading Public:

The Reading Public Defoe is a literary merchant as much as he is an “author.” He takes advantage of an emerging market: the reading public. This market is created by: The printing press—enables mass production of reading material A middle class (“middle station”) with the leisure for reading

Popular Taste:

Popular Taste The novel was not considered a literary genre (type of writing) in the 18 th c. Defoe was more concerned with pleasing the tastes of the public than the taste of the public as opposed to the taste of the critics He referred to his audience as “honest meaning ignorant persons”

Language and Popular Taste:

Language and Popular Taste Defoe did not write his first novel, RC , until he was 59. Until then he wrote as a journalist and political pamphleteer. His style is influenced by his journalism. Explain how. Other factors that were influencing language at the time:the Lockian conception of language; the Royal Society's wish for a language which would help its scientific and technological aims by keeping close to the speech of `artisans, countrymen, and merchants': and to the plain unadorned style of later seventeenth-century preaching which obtained its effects by repetition rather than by imagery or structural elaboration.

Rise of the Novel:

Rise of the Novel According to the dead literary critic Ian Watt, the emergence of the novel as a genre was enabled by two factors. The reading public (which we have just talked about) and An individualist society


Individualism Def : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals (as opposed to groups or institutions such as the state, church or society) Consider how the advent individualism might have changed British society.

Causes of Individualist Society:

Causes of Individualist Society Ian Watt—still dead—attributes two causes to individualist society Rise of modern industrial capitalism Spread of Protestantism

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism:

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism Specialization —brings about more choice for individuals Instead of making candles, you can now choose to make the wick or the wax i.e. there are more jobs but not necessarily more exciting jobs This is a possible reason that there was an appetite for adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d:

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d The pursuit of wealth weakens social ties. Can you give some examples of how this is exemplified in Robinson Crusoe ?

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d: HOMO ECONOMICUS:

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d: HOMO ECONOMICUS Robinson Crusoe is often referred to as an exemplar of homo economicus , the economic man. Pascal: “All the unhappiness of man arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room.” What do you think about this statement? How do you think Crusoe would feel about this statement?

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d:

Rise of Modern Industrial Capitalism, cont’d Individual mobility is increasing figuratively (class mobility) and literally. Exploring, trade and colonization are creating wealth and helping to drive the engine of a new capitalist economy. The adventure story is a metaphor for a new individualist life which itself is more adventurous. Or, the ability to read fiction is merely another choice. The printing press offers “substitute experience.”

Spread of Protestantism:

Spread of Protestantism Protestantism “ emphasiz [ es ] the idea that untiring stewardship of the material gifts of God was a paramount religious and ethical obligation.” –Watt German sociologist Max Weber traces this idea to the concept of a “calling.” Martin Luther used this word (actually the German word Beruf ) in his translation of the Bible. See Robinson Crusoe, p. 14. This passage and Luther’s bible combine the call of God with a worldly calling. Therefore, being successful in business has been viewed much more positively in the Protestant tradition than in Catholicism where holiness is found in a monkish separation from the material world.

For next time:

For next time The tension between spiritualism and materialism.

Francis Bacon:

Francis Bacon " Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world. "

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