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Geographers of writing : the authorship of Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe in Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe



Graduation date: 2002Themes of authorship in Aphra Behn's Oroonoko and Daniel Defoe's Robinson\ud Crusoe highlight locations in the stories that expose the author's concerns with their\ud responsibilities and contributions to society. In order to frame a discussion of authorship\ud in Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe, it is essential to position Behn and Crusoe as\ud travelers who write autobiographies of their involvement in exotic circumstances.\ud Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe betray the tensions that arise from the barriers separating\ud travel and colonial objectives, individual agency and social action. Although the stories\ud may incorporate truth and fiction, writing enables the authors to present, with symbolic\ud images, concerns with their participation in situations that hinder the free expression of\ud their will. I refer to Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe as "geographers" of writing because\ud they identify tenuous boundaries that organize social views concerning gender,\ud responsibility and behavior in contrast to individual desires. Aphra Behn's narrative role\ud in Oroonoko charts the tragic outcomes of Oroonoko's rejection of slavery and also\ud draws attention to the reception of a female author. Behn's identity as an author, as it is\ud constructed within Oroonoko, is intertwined with the murder of a slave prince, and with a\ud woman's freedom to write and publish in the 1680s.\ud Although Defoe is the author of the text, he manipulates the presentation of the\ud story to convince readers that Crusoe wrote an authentic account of his years as a\ud castaway on an unnamed island. In his journal, Crusoe discusses his position in his\ud culture and the resulting circumstances that result from his rejection of family and\ud economic position in search of adventure. With limited resources, Crusoe uses writing to\ud redefine his agency in contrast to the threats of the island and his responsibilities to God,\ud family and society.\ud Although there may be discrepancies that blur the "true" identity and involvement\ud of the author in autobiography, these narratives raise discourses concerning the balance\ud between the individual's desires and society's expectations for behavior. Attention to\ud authorship identifies the discourses and contradictions faced by Behn's and Crusoe's\ud participation in travel and the subsequent translation, resolution and apology enabled by\ud authorship

Year: 2001
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Provided by: ScholarsArchive@OSU
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