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Crusoe’s Foe, Foe’s Cruso, and the Origins and Future of the Novel

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Abstract The following paper explores how J. M. Coetzee’s 1986 Foe provides a postcolonialist critique of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 Robinson Crusoe through revising its temporal structure and reconceptualizing its treatment of time. I begin with Foe, explaining its function as a fictional urtext to Robinson Crusoe, an urtext whose characters listlessly while away their time and whose narrative lacks plot potential. Turning next to Robinson Crusoe, I discuss how its linear time-scheme reinforces the key colonialist assumptions about progress. I then return to Foe, explaining its reshaping of the past in service of a hoped-for future.

Affiliations: 1: Saint Joseph’s University 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19131-1395, Email:, URL:; 2: Saint Joseph’s University 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19131–1395


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