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Robinson Crusoe, Home School Hero

Margaret Eustace France


1. All quotations from Robinson Crusoe and Farther Adventures come from the first editions of the texts unless indicated in the body of this article or attributed to Focus on the Family’s editor Joe Wheeler in the parenthetical citation.

2. The copy text used by Focus on the Family Great Stories editor Joe Wheeler for both Robinson Crusoe and The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is the 1897 McLoughlin Brothers edition, itself a reprint of the 1891 Cassell edition, as Robert Lovett notes in his Robinson Crusoe: A Bibliographical Checklist of English Language Editions, 1719–1979 (190). Both include the same Walter Paget illustrations used in the Focus on the Family editions. The Cassell edition's text is the basis for many recent editions or reprints of Farther Adventures, including those published by secular presses, for example, Reagent Press (2006) and Serenity Publishers (2009).

3. In this essay I use the term "evangelical Christian" to refer to the people that Focus on the Family and related organizations percieve as their North American constituency. Many North Americans self-identify as evangelical Christians without sharing all or any of the values attributed to evangelical Christians by coalitions claiming to represent them.

4. I refer here to Stephen Baldwin, actor and brother of actors Alec, William and Daniel Baldwin, who detailed his conversion to evangelical Christianity with co-author Mark Tabb in The Unusual Suspect: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith. Eileen Luhr provides an insightful introduction to Christian heavy metal in her essay "Metal Missionaries to the Nation: Heavy Metal Music, 'Families,' and Youth Culture, 1984–1994." Ruth Marie Griffith's God's Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission gives an excellent account of faith-based weight loss (141–50). For Christian weight training, see Kathleen Amende’s essay "Better than Sex: Working out with Jesus at the Lord’s Gym," in Shopping for Jesus, ed. Dominic Jane.

5. Founded in 2003 by Cory Burnell and Jim Taylor, Christian Exodus organizes its members to relocate to influence regional, and eventually national, political policy with the ultimate goal of forming an "independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire" ( See Joanna Sweet and Martha F. Lee’s article, "Christian Exodus: A Modern American Millenarian Movement." Families identifying themselves with Quiverfull eschew family planning, both in deference to Biblical prohibitions and as part of a missionary effort to spread Christianity by increasing Christian families. Kathryn Joyce's Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement gives a thorough history.

6. Melissa Free traces the publication history of packaging Farther Adventures with Robinson Crusoe through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in  "Un-Erasing Crusoe: Farther Adventures in the Nineteenth Century," attributing the drastic decrease in editions of Farther Adventures to twentieth-century critics' ideological investment in considering Crusoe the perfect proto-capitalist.

7. For a more detailed examination of the contrast between the educational philosophies of A. S. Neill and James Dobson, see Jackie Stallcup’s essay, "Power, Fear, and Children’s Picture Books."

8. According to Paula Backscheider, under the right leadership Nonconformist academies could provide an education superior to Oxford or Cambridge in terms of practical, useful knowledge. In contrast to students at Oxford or Cambridge, those at Charles Morton’s academy, which Defoe attended, took courses in English, studied modern languages, learned and applied the latest scientific research, and read a wider range of philosophy and theology, including the works of John Locke (15).

9. Film and television adaptations of the Crusoe myth are plentiful enough to fuel chapters in several recent books, including Approaches to Teaching Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Eighteenth Century Fiction on Screen, as well as at least two dissertations: Anne Colvin’s "The Celluloid Crusoe" and Sophia Nikoleishvili’s "The Many Faces of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe."

10. Armstrong’s Little Women is widely categorized as a feminist update of the story because it makes Jo's marriage seem completely compatible with her budding career. Within the academy, the quality of the feminism the film represents is debatable. Linda Grasso attacks Armstrong's Little Women for portraying feminism as a fait accompli, while Karen Hollinger and Teresa Winterhalter criticize the film for being ahistorical but finally find it valuable as a reflection of contemporary women's desires.

11. In both Robinson Crusoe and Farther Adventures, Wheeler discusses his editorial work in identical sections labeled "About This Edition." He writes, "It has been a formidable task to update, and make more readable, this three centuries' old icon. I do not think it has ever been done before. Let me explain: First, the language was generally archaic. What was most confusing was not the words themselves, but their current usage and connotations. Frequently, after reading a section I would shake my head and think, What is Defoe saying? Individually, the words made sense, but the way in which they were grouped was sometimes unclear. I decided to resort to my unabridged dictionary and dig backward in time. Once I discovered what the word meant to Defoe, I could understand what he was saying...To help the reader I either footnoted the term or phrase (by far the easiest option) or found substitute words that were used during the eighteenth century. Second, the book is filled with sentence-paragraph monstrosities...I found them hard to restructure without appearing heavy-handed. In most cases, I left the paragraphs as they were, only breaking them up where I found significant topic shifts or change of speaker. Third, and even more of a problem, there were no chapter divisions or subheadings to break up the text...I reread the text carefully to see if I could find built-in chapter breaks. Fortunately, Defoe's text has a rhythm to it that made these breaks fairly easy to determine. As for chapter titles, I tried whenever possible to use Defoe's own words (often borrowed from running heads in the original text). Fourth, I wanted to bring back what has been virtually lost during the last century: marvelous woodcut illustrations" (Wheeler, Robinson Crusoe xii-xiii; Wheeler, Farther Adventures xiii, italics in original).

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