Robinson Crusoe Analysis

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« ROBINSON CRUSOE » Daniel Defoe

Cours du 1er décembre 2010
P.14: This book is perceived very differently across cultures and also across the different periods of time! Not the same in the 18th century than in the 21st.
EPITOME/ARCH representative picture of western man.
* Blueprint for colonization

Women absent from the picture: it is quite possible in literature to find journeys of exploration that actually involve community, women! Here: male at the center of the story.

Next week: Defoe can write in a female point of view BUT here, MALE PROJECT.

Despite the first catastrophe, Crusoe sit again in a journey -> disaster: taking captive as a slave by Muslims (non-Christian country). Freedom >< slavery: essential.

Motivation to leave: slave trade in Africa.
Someone who has been in slavery himself doesn’t come to the conclusion that there’s a problem with this condition (slavery). Relationship with another slave, a Muslim won’t be enough to set him off to not going off to slave trade. * Foreshadowing of relationship with Friday.

Issue of imprisoning: obsession with enclosures other to protect oneself from savages.

P.18: Change of circumstances from merchant to a miserable slave: trader -> traded! Merchant = freedom (novel idea) through money and property.
Totally obsessed with his wish to escape (foreshadows his wish to escape from the island). He finds a way out by taking advantage of a mini excursion where he’s accompanied by his master.

P.19-23: To what extent is the non-Western character stereotyped or not? Contradictions: there are stereotypes.
Clearly we have a novel where some parts are fully detailed but that episode is not one of those. Despite the stereotype, we can’t say that it’s a Manichean episode. Bond Crusoe – Xury (other slave). He passes very quickly to the Muslim captivity episode but he also does the same to what it’s like to be on n English boat at that time -> it was AWFUL!!!! Devastated by scurvy (vitamin deficiency). His idealization of naval life is in contradiction of the truth: his father had all the reasons to be worried.

No details about the habits of the Muslims but no demonization either: problematic but not “black & white” . The story doesn’t hide the fact that slavery wasn’t only an European phenomenon!!!

ANECDOTE: One of the nicknames of the Englishmen is “ LIMEY “ -> lime : after a certain number of years and centuries, the English discovered that you could use lemon juice to cure scurvy.

First approach of the African Coast: p.22 -> quite a bit of stereotypes. You have all the fears in the European imaginary: savages in humane form but also savages in animal form. Wilderness of the human/animal world. Question: how realistic is this? Projection and an interesting irony of what we should be aware of … Lions -> first gesture = shoot the lion => establish his power ! Same thing in the history of slavery: gun power >< the autochthones. MASTER POWER. There was no reason to kill the lion: non-human other represented by nature -> conquest over nature (in order to survive). The conquest of nature is at the center of the colonial project/ideas. Foreshadowing the need to tame the non-human other + all the problems linked to that taming.

P.24: Another leitmotiv: surveying of the land by the human gaze (will be an obsession). Second one: manufacturing of tools – conquest of territories through the use of tools (gun too). * Obsession of technology at the time!

Not a coincidence: Newton experimented with optics at the time so this aspect is indirectly present in the story: the human gaze is used to conquer territories. * Development of the art of LANDSCAPING!

P.27: Nakedness = outside civilization and wilderness.
He himself is now condemned to a state of wilderness, he becomes a white savage.

P.30: Crusoe knows he has a debt. He uses his friend as money: “turn Christian or I’ll let the captain have you !”...
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