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Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Reinvention of Wonder$
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Sarah Tindal Kareem

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689101

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199689101.001.0001

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Rethinking the Real with Robinson Crusoe and David Hume

Rethinking the Real with Robinson Crusoe and David Hume

(p.75) 2 Rethinking the Real with Robinson Crusoe and David Hume
Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Reinvention of Wonder

Sarah Tindal Kareem

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to Defoe’s Crusoe and Hume’s Treatise to show how wonder emerges as a response to the ordinary in the wake of an epistemological crisis that precipitates a renewed sense of life’s contingency. Both texts employ Puritan spiritual autobiography and, in each case, this literary mode’s questionable referential status reproduces the epistemological uncertainty that Crusoe and Hume face. Crusoe and Hume model how such epistemological uncertainty might be a source of pleasing wonder by exhibiting an attitude of viewing the ordinary as if it were rare, and the illusory as if it were real—and by extension the real as if it were illusory. The chapter suggests that this capacity to illuminate the extraordinary within the ordinary and the illusory within the real becomes one of novelistic fiction’s distinctive characteristics. A coda to this chapter suggests that the indeterminacy identified in Crusoe persists in Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

Keywords:   Daniel Defoe, David Hume, Robinson Crusoe, A Treatise of Human Nature, Puritan spiritual autobiography, realism, contingency, indeterminacy, skepticism

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