NOTE: Check out these early editions of Robinson Crusoe (and books inspired by it) from the Miami University special collections website (where I got my Ph.D.): http://spec.lib.miamioh.edu/home/from-the-stacks-robinson-crusoe/
Readings in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Opinions: Rousseau, Blair, Beattie, Chalmers, Ballantyne, Coleridge, Lamb, Wordsworth, Poe, Hazlitt, de Quincey, Borrow, Macaulay, Dickens, Stephen (pp.262-279)
Readings in Twentieth-Century Criticism: Woolf (283-297), Joyce (320-323)
Answer TWO of the following:
1. Why do so many of the earlier critics insist that Robinson Crusoe is a work best suited for children, and indeed, is “one of the best books that can be put in the hands of children” (265)? What makes this book almost impossible for children to read today? What aspect of the book—or culture—have changed the most? Or do you still agree with these writers?
2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge insisted that Crusoe “is merely a representative of humanity in general: neither his intellectual nor his moral qualities set him above the middle degree of mankind” (268). Do you agree with this statement? If so, why is it important for Defoe to make his hero such an “average” character? If not, why might Coleridge be misreading Defoe’s intentions?
3. De Quincey writes that Defoe’s unique gift is to “invent, when nothing at all is gained by inventing” (272). Yet Macaulay, on the opposite page, claims that “He had undoubtedly a knack at making fiction look like the truth. But is such a knack much to be admired?” (273). What side of the argument do you stand on? Do you feel such inventions are crucial to the modern novel? Or do they betray the hodgepodge origins of the novel which were soon refined by Jane Austen and others?
4. How is Woolf’s essay a revision of an earlier generation of critics who accused Defoe of having “a very powerful but a very limited imagination” (279)? What does she means by her statement, Defoe has throughout kept consistently to his own sense of perspective” (285)?