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Transformations, Ideology, and the Real in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Other Narratives

Finding The Thing Itself

Maximillian E. Novak

This book explores significant problems in the fiction of Daniel Defoe. Maximillian E. Novak investigates a number of elements in Defoe’s work by probing his interest in rendering of reality (what Defoe called “the Thing itself”). Novak examines Defoe’s interest in the relationship between prose fiction and painting, as well as the various ways in which Defoe’s woks were read by contemporaries and by those novelists who attempted to imitate and comment upon his Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe decades after its publication. In this book, Novak attempts to consider the uniqueness and imaginativeness of various aspects of Defoe’s writings including his way of evoking the seeming inability of language to describe a vivid scene or moments of overwhelming emotion, his attraction to the fiction of islands and utopias, his gradual development of the concepts surrounding Crusoe’s cave, his fascination with the horrors of cannibalism, and some of the ways he attempted to defend his work and serious fiction in general. Most of all, Transformations, Ideology, and the Real in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Other Narratives establishes the complexity and originality of Defoe as a writer of fiction.
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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 250Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-1-61149-485-3 • Hardback • October 2014 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61149-528-7 • Paperback • April 2016 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-486-0 • eBook • October 2014 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Maximillian E. Novak is distinguished research professor of English, emeritus, at the University of California, Los Angeles.

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1: Defoe as an Innovator of Fictional Form

Chapter 2: Picturing the Thing Itself, or Not: Defoe, Painting, Prose Fiction, and the Arts of Describing

Chapter 3: The Unmentionable and the Ineffable in Defoe's Fiction

Chapter 4: Novel or Fictional Memoir: The Scandalous Publication of
Robinson Crusoe

Chapter 5: Meatless Fridays: CAnnibalism as Theme and Metaphor in
Robinson Crusoe

Chapter 6: Edenic Desires:
Robinson Crusoe, The Robinsonade, and Utopian Forms

Chapter 7: Strangely Surpriz'd by
Robinson Crusoe: A Response to David Fishelov's "Robinson Crusoe, 'The Other,' and the Poetics of Surprise"

Chapter 8: "Looking with Wonder Upon the Sea" : Defoe's Maritime Fictions,
Robinson Crusoe, and "The Curious Age We Live in"

Chapter 9: The Cave and the Grotto: Imagined Interiors and Realist Form in
Robinson Crusoe

Chapter 10: "The SUme of Humane Misery?": Ambiguities of Exile in Defoe's Fiction

Chapter 11: Ideological Tendencies in Three Crusoe Narratives by British Novelists during the Period following the French Revolution: Charles Dibdin's
Hannah Hewit, The Demale Crusoe, Maria Edgeworth's Forester, and Frances Burney's The Wanderer

About the Author
Written over the span of 20 years, all but one of them previously published, these 11 essays consider the tripartite thematic suggested in the title. 'Transformations' refers to questions of genre and how Defoe advanced toward a new form of fiction, principally in Robinson Crusoe, but also in other work. 'Ideology' is represented in Defoe’s own work and in the work of writers he inspired--Hannah Hewit, Maria Edgeworth, Frances Burney. 'Real' shows up in such chapters as the second, which frames Defoe’s realism within a perspective drawn from Dutch paintings. . . .The book offers a winsome look at Novak’s early years of studying Defoe, and it concludes with ruminations on Defoe’s present and future importance. In the end, this is a significant contribution to Defoe studies because it includes fine essays (among them the brilliant 'Meatless Fridays: Cannibalism as Theme and Metaphor in Robinson Crusoe') bristling with scholarly expertise and alert familiarity with critical theory, written in a clear and winning style. This volume cumulates the wisdom of a distinguished scholar who has lived in intimacy with his subject for some six decades. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.

Novak has established Defoe as a major intellectual, and his many writings convincingly show that Defoe grappled with the key problems of his day, both practical and theoretical.
Eighteenth-Century Fiction