"Shipwreck in the heart of the city" : Robinson Crusoe in Paul Auster's early prose

  • As a postmodern detective novel, "City of Glass" circles around its genre, deconstructing topical notions such as the 'case' and citing the commonplace language of hardboiled detectives as well as Poe's archetypical Dupin. Furthermore, the novel also refers to completely different texts and genres: Milton's Christian epic "Paradise Lost", for example, is allotted an important position in the 6th chapter with its speculations about a regaining of the Adamic language. The allusions to the puritan poet Milton exemplifies how Auster synthesizes a postmodern inquiry into genre and language with references to "premodern moral questions", highlighting interesting analogies between post- and premodern practices of reading and writing. An even more astonishing example are the subtle references to Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe", the best-selling puritan "spiritual autobiography" about the survival of a castaway on a remote Caribbean island, which have not yet been accorded scholarly attention. Although they don't seem to be of much significance at first sight, they, too, build on the relationship between puritan and postmodern reading and writing. In this paper, Joachim Harst unfolds the many parallels between Auster's and Defoe's first novels and shows how Auster reads "Robinson Crusoe" as an exemplary figure for existential solitude and artistic creativity. Auster's postmodern view on Defoe's novel also helps to highlight fissures in Robinson's seemingly complete "selfcomposure" via autobiography, while the colonial aspects of Defoe's novel resonate with Auster's postcolonial critique of America's puritan origins. Harst concludes with a glance at Auster's references to "Robinson Crusoe" in his other early works, especially his autofictional text "Invention of Solitude", in which he depicts the artist as "shipwreck[ed] in the heart of the city" and uses "Robinson Crusoe" to construct a biographical mythology aiming at creative authorship.

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Author:Joachim Harst
Parent Title (English):Komparatistik online : komparatistische Internet-Zeitschrift
Place of publication:Gießen
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2020/06/23
Date of first Publication:2020/06/23
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2021/04/21
GND Keyword:Defoe, Daniel; Robinson Crusoe; Auster, Paul; City of glass; Puritanismus; Autorschaft; Einsamkeit; Sprache <Motiv>
Page Number:23
First Page:47
Last Page:69
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 80 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft / 800 Literatur und Rhetorik
8 Literatur / 81 Amerikanische Literatur in Englisch / 810 Amerikanische Literatur in Englisch
8 Literatur / 82 Englische, altenglische Literaturen / 820 Englische, altenglische Literaturen
Sammlungen:CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
Zeitschriften / Jahresberichte:Komparatistik online : komparatistische Internet-Zeitschrift / Komparatistik online 2020
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht