Literature Lives During Robinson Crusoe Week

The classic tale of a castaway who spends nearly three decades on a desert island was the focus of the spring semester’s Literature Lives celebration, presented by the English & Philosophy Department.

This year marked the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” A variety of activities were offered to mark the occasion – including film screenings, a visit by a pair of friendly goats, a pottery pit firing and a discussion examining the novel in a modern context.

“‘Robinson Crusoe’ has a lot of adventure, which makes it a fun thing to build a week around,” said Dr. Amy Gates, assistant professor of English. “But it’s also problematic. (Issues such as) slavery and colonialism complicate the narrative. We want to talk about those issues, not just paper over them.”

The novel, which has never been out of print, almost immediately became engrained in popular culture, said Dr. Zak Watson, chair of the English & Philosophy Department. In addition to sequels penned by Defoe, there were abridgements, unofficial adaptations and numerous films.

“Crusoe was showing up in the popular culture of the time,” said Watson. “It’s everybody’s story … you can imagine you’re the one out there living in that space. Everybody owns it, in a way.”

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