Robinson Crusoe & Adventure in the 18th Century – A Study

Daniel Defoe project
Daniel Defoe, from WikiCommons (Public Domain use).

Posted by Ben Franks

Hand-in-hand with becoming an adult seems to be a passion for travel. The world seems less daunting and more inviting – especially if it means you might be able to avoid employment for another few months or so. Whether that passion ever really dies is another question.

By the time Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) managed to get Robinson Crusoe published it was 1719 and he was getting on a bit. Nonetheless, it has become one of the greatest adventure and shipwreck novels ever written, generating timeless appeal. A film adaptation cropped up just 18 years ago in 1997, starring Pierce Brosnan – the fresh new face of the titular James Bond role. So clearly Crusoe has the power to stir audiences even today.

So by combining the passion for travel with the timeless appeal of Robinson Crusoe makes for a pretty exciting project. One that sees this novel against the backdrop of its context – the 18th Century.

How, say, does the word ‘adventure’ define itself in this period? Does it see itself as a genre or subject? Are adventures in a similar vain to Crusoe – shipwreck, escapism, etc.?

My aims are to explore this subject through close reading of the novel, while using distance reading techniques of 18th Century novel titles. I will develop this by creating an appendix of short evaluated visualisations (mappings, nGram, etc.) and articles, summarising them into a single post that will address my conclusions about adventure in the 18th Century.

As it is a digital tool, users will be able to interactively explore the subject through interior site hyperlinks, immersing them in my project.

The project will be hosted on – have a look.


About Ben Franks

Ben Franks is the Editor in Chief and Managing Director of Pie Magazine, which he founded in August 2010. He is currently studying for a degree in Literature and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, Somerset.

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