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Daniel Defoe, Contrarian

Daniel Defoe, Contrarian

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Daniel Defoe, Contrarian
    Book Description:

    In this study, Robert James Merrett approaches Defoe's body of work using interdisciplinary methods that recognize dialectic in his verbal creativity and cognitive awareness.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6449-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter One Contraries: Linguistic, Narrative, and Theological
    (pp. 3-43)

    This statement by Robinson Crusoe with its first-person plural pronoun and absolute negative offers a generalization that stems from personal retrospection of fallibility yet presumes to speak for all readers. This insight into the limits of perception and cognition is voiced passively: truth about the human condition is reached only through acknowledgment of its imperfectibility, the contrariety of circumstances, and the polarities of experience. Crusoeʹs pithy and epigrammatic contention is a key to the genius of Daniel Defoe, to what the French would call his imaginary. In his direct and oblique commentaries on human life, Defoe favours the ebb and...

  6. Chapter Two Just Reflections
    (pp. 44-72)

    In chapter 1 I began to argue that Defoe is a verbal artist committed more to expressive than logical language and a rhetorician with an acute sense of the reciprocity of semantics and ontology. The present chapter extends this argument by showing that he would have understood what Walter Ong calls the ʺresidual primacy of orality in culture.ʺ³ That Defoe adopts the ancient, pre-literate voices of prophet and preacher – a claim elaborated throughout my chapters – allows him to express transcendental truths by way of contraries or ʺdepth paradoxes.ʺ Philip Wheelwright uses this phrase when showing how expressive language...

  7. Chapter Three Serious Reflections: An Apology for Faith and Fiction
    (pp. 73-108)

    The coda to this chapter explores Defoeʹs polar discussion of the literary methods and reputations of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Milton, showing that his contrary stances to these authors imitate prophetic modes of discourse. If, as the epigraphs above suggest, Defoe adopts prophetic stances in a range of texts, he does so precisely inSerious Reflections,which acknowledges cultural resistance to forensic oratory and appreciates that speaking and hearing do not necessarily accord with each other. He often spoke like a prophet because he observed that his contemporaries chose to be deaf to the semantic extensions of ʺjust...

  8. Chapter Four Biblical Allusions as Narrative Resources
    (pp. 109-136)

    The explication ofSerious Reflectionsin the previous chapter has shown that Defoe employs several voices and polar stances in order to validate storytelling and to root narrativeʹs purposive functions in the Bible and Christian doctrines. Oral and published fictions mediate for him dialectical tensions between religious and secular values, between spiritual and material circumstances. Speaking as prophet, preacher, and explicator, he challenges standard interpretations of texts and understandings of the imaginative processes involved in reading, seeing the scriptures and church doctrines as dynamic and problematic rather than dogmatically stable. In arguing with himself and adopting polar stances on spiritual...

  9. Chapter Five Political Impersonations and Cultural Implications
    (pp. 137-171)

    Defoeʹs prophetic and typological allusions to the Bible detailed in the previous chapter prepare us to analyse how and why he relates political ideology to positive and negative aspects of religion and theology. As the text offering ultimate authority to the dialectic of transcendence and immanence in private and public discourse, the Bible functions for Defoe as the substrate of society because it provides categorical imperatives not only to the vocations involved in commerce and trade but also to politicians and theorists of government. As a believer in Godʹs absolute authority, he promoted monarchy over republicanism, often ironically embodying his...

  10. Chapter Six Political Imaginings: Sacred and Profane
    (pp. 172-199)

    The regal imagery in this eulogy of the Earl of Pembrokeʹs rule at Wilton House illustrates Defoeʹs eagerness to broaden the intellectual and imaginative contexts of monarchy and to look past secular and literal-minded notions of government. His figurative exposition of patriarchal monarchy here and in his fictions has in common with his deployment of biblical allusions an authorial decision not to be constrained by political partisanship or denominational orthodoxies. Given his sympathies with the trading classes and religious dissent, his promotion of courtly values in this epigraph confirms his polarity thinking. The order exemplified by the Earlʹs ʺgreat familyʺ...

  11. Chapter Seven Marriage and Matrimony: The Dialectic of Sex and Love
    (pp. 200-230)

    Since the last two chapters have explicated Defoeʹs institutional conservatism with regard to regal authority and have unfolded in his fictions the self-destructive obsessions with monarchical imagery, it should be less surprising that the above marital prescriptions fromConjugal Lewdnessinvolve political concepts that are traditional and progressive.² One reason for exploring this dialectic in the present chapter is to see how Defoe conceives of the plural institutional functions of marriage and to show how his polarity thinking about love and domesticity requires narrative structure in his fiction and non-fiction to traverse the boundary between description and prescription constantly. While...

  12. Chapter Eight Defoeʹs Imaginary: Narrative Inference, Figurative Expression, and Spiritual Cognition
    (pp. 231-286)

    The dialectic of traditional and progressive ideas unfolded in the previous chapter shows that Defoeʹs differentiation between marriage and matrimony entails sets of polarities. So that his commentary on public and legal forms of marriage and on private and spiritual responsibilities of wedded partners will more effectively challenge lax social practices, he exhibits the reflexive functions of narrative discourse in his non-fiction and fiction: figures in his conduct manuals not only tell stories to resist or justify their participation in social practices but also are subject to the remediable power of stories; and narrators in his fictions leave the completion...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 287-360)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 361-380)
  15. Index
    (pp. 381-409)