4: Robinson Crusoe & A Modest Proposal, 1719-29.

Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift are two of the most well-known authors of the early ‘Augustan’ period, and among the putative ‘fathers’ of the novel as a form of literature. Defoe accidentally wrote one of the most popular books in the last 300 years, Robinson Crusoe, and ‘Robinsonades’ entered our fictions subsequently and continue to fascinate us, from Tom Hanks clutching Wilson the volleyball in Castaway to J.G. Ballard’s Concrete Island and Andy Weir’s The Martian. Swift penned multiple pieces of utopian writing but here we concentrate on his ironic and very political satirical intervention A Modest Proposal, still considered one of the most well-designed and executed literary satires in English, and loaded with dystopian themes.

Required Reading:

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, any edition, chapters 2-5.

Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal, 1729. ECCO or any modern edition.

Fritz Söllner, ‘The Use (and Abuse) of Robinson Crusoe in Neoclassical Economics’, History of Political Economy, 48:1 (March 2016); pp. 35-64.

Elizabeth Hedrick, ‘A Modest Proposal in Context: Swift, Politeness, and A Proposal for giving Badges to the Beggars’, Studies in Philology, 114:4 (2017); from p. 852.

Further Reading:

John Mullan, ‘Swift, Defoe, and Narrative Forms’ in Steven N. Zwicker (ed), The Cambridge companion to English literature, 1650-1740 (CUP, 1998).

John Richetti, A History of Eighteenth-century British Literature (Wiley, 2017), chapters on Defoe and Swift.

Christopher F. Loar, Political magic : British fictions of savagery and sovereignty, 1650-1750 (Fordham, 2014).

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