THE MANY FACES OF DANIEL DEFOE’S ROBINSON CRUSOE: EXAMINING THE CRUSOE MYTH IN FILM AND ON TELEVISION

AUTHOR:  SOPHIA NIKOLEISHVILI

A Dissertation
presented to
the Faculty of the Graduate School
at the University of Missouri-Columbia

December 2007

INTRO:

Robinson Crusoe has generated many new stories, usually referred to as “Robinsonades.” Robinsonade, to define it broadly, “repeats the themes of Robinson Crusoe; usually it incorporates or adapts specific physical aspects of Crusoe’s experience and is an obvious rewriting of the Crusoe story. Other times, it shares ideas or narrative style” (Fisher 130). Thus, Robinson Crusoe adaptors have metamorphosed Defoe’s castaway into a dog, a woman, a child, a family, a doctor, and an idyllic lover, among many others. Rogers’ study catalogs a great number of imitations of Defoe’s novel. An incomplete list of popular Robinsonades includes the following works: The Voyages, Dangerous Adventures, and Imminent Escapes of Captain Richard Falconer (1720), John Barnard’s Ashton Memorial (1725), Johann Rudolph Wyss’s The Swiss family Robinson (1812-27), Captain Marryat’s Masterman Ready (1843), The Dog Crusoe (1860), The Catholic Crusoe (1862), Six Hundred Robinson Crusoes (1877). Serious revisions of Robinson Crusoe continue to be made. The most recent permutations of the Crusoe story include Derek Walcott’s Castaway poems, Muriel Spark’s Robinson (1958), Michel Tournier’s Friday and Robinson (1972) and J. M. Coetzee’s Foe (1986).

The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the relationship between cinematic Robinsonades and Defoe’s novel. The aim is to study the different versions of the Crusoe myth, by interpreting not only the ways they differ from one another, but also the ways they stay the same. What narrative elements, themes, issues, and motifs persist in the various retellings of the Crusoe story and why? What kind of appetite does the Crusoe story feed viewing audiences of many different generations and cultures? What do the filmic Robinsonades say about Defoe’s novel and what do they tell us about a particular time and culture in which they were produced?

These two famous passages, one by a celebrated writer Joseph Conrad, and another by an American film director D. W. Griffith, are frequently cited in comparisons of film and literature. The visual stress of Conrad’s terms, critics note, makes the aims he cites seem as appropriate to a filmmaker as a novelist. Putting Defoe somewhat into the background in order to examine the relationship between film and literature and to discuss major approaches in adaptation theory. by considering some compositional similarities and differences between the two mediums, and examine the
various ways film critics and theoreticians view adaptation and address the question of how a filmmaker can go about adapting a novel into film.

FULL TEXT:DANIEL DEFOE’S ROBINSON CRUSOE

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