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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

The Different Faces of Friday: Aspects of the European Robinson Crusoe Reception

15th March 2007, 20:00 to 21:00, The Penthouse Boardroom, Collingwood College

Daniel Defoe’s 'The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe', first published in 1719, is one of the most successful narrative texts of all times and established a new type of novel: the Robinsonian story. Up to now, about 3,500 different novels of all languages, most of them more or less free adaptations and variations of Defoe’s original and the adventures of Robinson and Friday, tell stories about stranded heroes and their contact with foreign nations, which every so often portray friendly natives as dangerous cannibals. The history of literature knows hundreds of different Robinson Crusoes and hundreds of different Fridays. One Robinson is travelling in a spaceship and meets an alien from outer space; the other survives the crash of an airplane and spends his time on the lonely island with a partner in the shape of a football.

The aim of this talk will be to show how the Robinson Crusoe motif and especially the description of Friday and the cannibals can be seen as revealing changing anthropological and political discourses on the one hand, and the manifestation of racial cliche on the other, the latter being in opposition to the age of enlightenment and progress. The focal point will be on the post war literature of Eastern and Western Germany.

Professor Moebus teaches German literature at the Georg-August-University of G?ngen. His particular expertise lies in the area of 18th and 20th century German literature with special interests in Goethe, Jewish literature, expressionism and modern poetry, as well as in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory.

IAS Fellows' Public Lectures are free and open to all.

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