3rdGrade 1stSemester – English Language and Literature – British Novel – Week VII – Dr. Emine Se. John Mullan explains how the novel took shape in the 18th century with the works of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne, and the ways in which the book industry both shaped and responded to the new genre.The publication of Robinson Crusoe in 1719 was an extraordinary event in the history of literature. There had been prose narratives before this book, but never so sustained a fictional account of one individual’s experiences. This man’s story was singular and new. What distinguished Robinson Crusoewere elements that now seem essential to the novel as a genre. It told of an ordinary individual, even ifhis ordeals were extraordinary. It placed great emphasis on his inner life, though understood mostly in spiritual terms. And, above all, in the very manner of its narration, it asked the reader to believe in its ‘probability’. In the first decades of the English novel, this was the most common word for what made a narrative believable. In the case of Robinson Crusoe, it involved the narrator’s unwavering commitment to minute, objective description and circumstantial detail, Daniel Defoe’s brilliantly unliterary prose doing justice to the facts of one particular person’s experience.For Defoe, steeped in the works of devout Protestant autobiographers such as John Bunyan, narration meant religious self-inspection. Crusoe tells us that ‘my Story is a whole Collection of Wonders’ – thatword ‘Wonders’ capturing both the narrator’s own amazement at his fortunes, and his dawning recognition of the influence of God’s care and guidance in his life. He is placed on the desert island, with only a Bible and the natural world to instruct him and ample time to look into his heart to understand the errors of his sinful past. Most of Defoe’s subsequent novels – Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack and Roxana among them – are memoirs of remorseful rogues who have learnt religion from experience and introspection. All of his novels presented themselves on their title pages as if they wereautobiographies. None bore Defoe’s name as their author. Indeed, there is evidence that one of them, The Journal of the Plague Year, was widely received as a true account of the experience of the Great Plague of 1665.