Tuesday 11 December 2012

Historiographical Considerations: Some Final Thoughts

The study of the Robinson Crusoe house in an architectural context was a unique endeavour. Instead of having a physical manifestation of an architecture, we had to consider the structures and spaces in literary form. In digesting the text for motives, programs, and functions of the Robinson Crusoe house, it became apparent that the house was as much as a literary narrative device as a setting and situation of the plot.

Robinson Crusoe's shelters transitioned in accordance with his basic needs; first, protection and safety, then shelter from the elements, then storage, leisure, and the need for work. The construction of the shelter and the many additions is a needs-based progression of development in the timeline of the story that grows more complex as Robinson Crusoe's development of a civilization emerges.

As with all good literature, the story of Robinson Crusoe demonstrates a great deal of the author's interpretations of his own epochal timeline. Throughout the course of his life, Defoe met the British colonial expansion, crumbling economic conditions, and an unstable royal monarchy with dissent. He challenged the politics and cultural conditions of London and abroad. As a Puritan and a Catholic Dissenter, Defoe carried with him strong ideals about the nature of civilization. These ideals found the perfect setting for manifestation in the shipwreck tale of survival he would write in the later years of his life.

Many of the ideals and themes explored in the novel are representative of Defoe's historical era, and it was a fascinating experience to explore the translation of this history into literature, then in architecture.


  1. “Robinson Crusoe” treats a well-known subject of a shipwreck and a castaway – a story not only unoriginal, being also based on a true story, but also a part of a myriad of similar novels long before and long after its own publication. Nevertheless this particular novel remains quite unchallenged in its canonical status.
    One obvious difference with the other works from the period is the quite untypical first-person narrative. Another intriguing fact is the novel’s form: an extraordinary amalgam of a diary, an adventure novel, a sermon and a survival manual.
    Strange as it may sound, in fact “Robinson Crusoe” only “pretends” to be an adventure novel: the adventures dynamics of the first, second and third parts of the book is flawed, with the second and the third parts resembling philosophical treatises instead.
    In reality the entire novel lacks emotional involvement while at the same time, which is stranger, it does not have much of a plot and certainly not a great number of plot twists, finally resulting abundant in reflections. Other peculiarities are the constant duplicity and ironic twists of the main (and almost only) character. Psychological depth could be expected to prevail but perhaps in another ironic turn they do not.
    We should nevertheless underline the unparalleled scope and imaginative power of the story, with all of its minuscule realistic details. None of the prototypes and certainly none of the imitations of “Robinson Crusoe” could boast greater effect and intensity.

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