Defoe Conference keynote address

The York Georgian Society is sponsoring the keynote lecture at the Defoe Society's 6th biennial conference in York on 12 July 2019 in memory of Ian Small, YGS chairman 2016-18.

Collecting and Recollecting: Defoe’s Survival Guide to Exile

How would you survive on an uninhabited island for years and years? Would it change your personality or your priorities? In 1704, the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned on one of the deserted Juan Fernandez Islands in the South Pacific, and survived for four years and four months; however, when he was rescued, he had almost lost his ability to speak. This adventure captured the imagination of the journalist Daniel Defoe. In The Life and Strange, Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe posits a parallel scenario in which his protagonist, alone for decades, must learn to survive not only physically, but morally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In this talk, Professor Benedict examines Robinson’s strategies to fend off fear, loneliness, melancholia, anger, remorse and disorientation in the context of contemporary texts on mental and spiritual health, memory and learning. The talk asks whether Crusoe does truly survive or whether the experience changes him past recognition.

The lecture will be given by Professor Barbara M. Benedict who holds the Charles A. Dana Chair in English at Trinity College, Connecticut. She has published Framing Feeling: Sentiment and Style in English Prose Fiction, 1745-1800; Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early-Modern Literary Anthologies; and Curiosity: A Cultural History of Early-Modern Inquiry. She has edited Eighteenth-Century English Erotica, 1700-1800, vol. 4:Wilkes and the Late Eighteenth Century, and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey with Deidre LeFaye. She writes on literature, science, book and reading history, and culture from the Restoration to the Regency.

YGS members will be able to attend the lecture at 5.30pm on 12 July without charge, but booking is essential. For details when available, see the Defoe Conference page.