Robinson Crusoe and the Earthy Ground

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This essay argues that the Crusoe trilogy works to bring the character Robinson Crusoe close to the earth, even to the point of merging him with a vital earthiness more powerful than he. In doing so, Daniel Defoe draws on the Genesis account of humanity’s origin in the earth and destiny to return to it. He also follows early modern scientists in departing from the Aristotel ian understanding of the earth as an inert element, instead viewing it as a dynamic substance comprised of heterogeneous parts. The Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) envisages the earth as an agent that mediates be tween the novel’s spiritual and material worlds. The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) uses the ambiguities of the terms “China” and “earth” as a means of moving from individual colonial and commercial projects to the planet as a whole. The Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe (1720) attempts to bring the work of spiritual self-examination down to earth through anecdote and metaphor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-406
Number of pages26
JournalEighteenth-Century Fiction
Issue number3
Early online date16 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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