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English 606: Books, Ms Prof.

Cheryl Nixon Class Notes Robinson Crusoe and Novel Definitions Reading Notes Before you dive into the novel, let’s consider why it is so famous: --considered the first novel (long, prose, fiction) --uses one man’s life—one man all alone!—as the structure for the novel: plots extreme individualism --has the enticing element of adventure: travel, shipwreck, survival --asks large philosophical questions about the self: who am I? what is my purpose in this world? what does it mean to be human? --traces how the mind works: how does a person keep his/her sanity? what is fear? what replaces human companionship? --raises spiritual issues: why and how do we practice religion? why do we turn to a god? what do we look for in a god? what does religion do for us? --explores issues of power: what is slavery? what is the state of war? --imagines how an individual re-creates civilization in the absence of it; what elements create civilization: work, religion, writing, language, hierarchy, kindness, order? --plots the idea of an “economy of one”: note how Crusoe is consumed with work, cultivation, creating, saving --this is pointedly not a marriage plot: what can serve as a plot if there is an absence of family, courtship, and marriage? ______________________________________________________________________ April 30: Robinson Crusoe, first ! Novel Definitions: --Part I: A and B: Prefatory Writing: Fact/Fiction/ Truth and Romance/History/Biography --Part II, A and B: Critical Essays: Fact/Fiction/Truth and Romance/History/Biography

For each topic below, jot down a page #/scene from Robinson Crusoe (RC) and a page #/selection from Novel Definitions (ND), as directed. 1. Fact/Fiction and Realism: Defoe claims that his novel is a “History of Fact” (ND, pg. 65). The 18th-century critic aligned the novel with fact; how does this early novel support that argument? See ND, pp. 40-43, 61-62. We know that the novel is fictional, yet it feels factual because of its realism. How does the novel create a sense of realism? What scenes seem “factual” or realistic in the first half of the novel? What writing techniques create this sense of realism?—for example, a scene might seem realistic if it contains a lot of descriptive detail. A scene in RC that helps it to seem factual or realistic: An essay in ND that helps to define the novel as “fact”:

61-62. 1. See ND. 49-51 and 113.html A scene in RC that seems connected to a historical event is: An essay in ND that helps to define the novel as a form of “history”: ______________________________________________________________________ May 7: Robinson Crusoe. . chronological retelling of the events of that person’s life. See ND. the 18th-century increasingly argues that a character should not be “mixed” or should not blend virtue and vice. 47-49.cuny. pp. Probable/possible Plots: The 18th century novel was very concerned with depicting not just “possible” plots (ie: it is “possible” that a man would be shipwrecked). for example see: http://academic. --Part I: C: Prefatory Writing: Plot/Character/Style --Part II: C: Critical Essays: Plot/Character/Style --Part III: A and B: Cultural Commentary: Popularity and Morals --Skim the Introduction For each topic below. pp. pp. Plot: Like Moll Flanders. jot down a page #/scene from Robinson Crusoe (RC) and a page #/selection from Novel Definitions (ND). History: Many early novels try to distance themselves from the romance and align themselves with history or factual narrative. but “probable” plots (ie: it is not very probable that a shipwrecked man would survive alone for 28 years). A scene in RC that illustrates a successful element of character: An essay in ND that helps to define that key element of character: 2.2. Does the novel take the “improbable” and make is seem possible (is this a defining characteristic of the novel—think of the gothic. Would the early novel have felt like a form of history to its readers? The story of Robinson Crusoe does have historical sources. As criticism of the novel evolves. see ND. 40-43. following a sequential. which makes the supernatural seem possible)? A scene in RC that seems improbable: An essay in ND that helps to define the concept of “probable/possible”: 3. does Crusoe meet that criteria? See ND. the plot of Robinson Crusoe is very straightforward: it uses the life of a person as a plot line. does Crusoe meet that criteria? See Character: The success of Robinson Crusoe rests on the creation of an extended character. pp. Again. 49-51 and 238. What elements of Crusoe make him a successful character? What aspects of “character” does Defoe “get right”? The 18th-century critic stresses the “conservation of character” or a consistency of character traits. What does Defoe add to that basic plot structure to make it successful? The 18th-century critic emphasizes the idea of “unity” of plot.brooklyn. Find a scene in the novel that seems to test the limits of probability. second ! Novel Definitions. as directed. Take a quick look at some of the sources of Defoe’s plot (this can be found easily by googling around). pp. most notably the story of Alexander Selkrik.

Morality/immorality: The early novel is judged not just according to realism. 39.51-52. probability. How does Robinson Crusoe meet—or help to invent—that expectation of unity? What basic elements of plot structure does Defoe locate in this “life history” structure? What seems to be missing from this early plot structure? A scene in RC that illustrates a successful or unsuccessful element of plot: An essay in ND that helps to define that key element of plot: 3. but the second half’s depiction of Friday and the war against the savages might seem immoral. pp. 52-55. See ND. What makes Robinson Crusoe a “moral” plot? How is he an admirable “moral” character? What elements of the plot strike you as “immoral”? For example. we might see the first half of the novel and his cultivation of the wilderness as moral. what is the “moral” of this story? Two scenes in RC—one that illustrates the morality of the novel and one that illustrates its immorality: An essay in ND that helps to the idea of a moral/immoral novel: . 192-3. and unity—it is also judged according to its morality. 203-4. How do you judge the novel’s morality.