Serial Realism


(Work in progress)



Almost certainly, had he been born three hundred or so years later, Daniel Defoe would have thrived as a television programme-maker, particularly at the present time when the skills of documentary director and soap opera writer are brought together so often in producing the ‘docu-soap’. Indeed, there are such close parallels between the current vogue for exploring and, in a sense, re-writing the lives of ‘real’ people, in the docu-soap format, and the kind of documentary approach adopted by Defoe, that a re-examination of what are variously referred to as his ‘histories’, ‘allegories’ and (most often) ‘novels’ may suggest a somewhat looser match with those literary terms than with this modern televisual alternative.

daniel_defoeThe central case I would like to make is that Defoe’s ‘novels’, for want of a generally-agreed expression, are a kind of hybrid which, if we may ignore the sensory limitations of the media available to him, is most closely analogous to the television ‘docu-soap’ of our time. The docu-soap is a fusing of the documentary form and facets of the ‘soap opera’. Defoe’s works contain copious documentary description of different kinds and also employ textual tactics which parallel closely directorial techniques used in soap operas. I am unaware of any academic studies of the docu-soap form, which is still very new. Where relevant, however, I will make passing references to critical studies of both of its progenitors, the documentary and the soap opera.

Ian Watt’s Beatonesque recipe1 for novel-making seems to imply that if ‘originality of plot’, the depiction of ‘individual experience’, ‘particularity of description’ and also of time and place, the use of ‘ordinary contemporary proper names’ and a setting which is an ‘actual physical environment’ are all put into the mixture, a novel will surely rise. All of the aspects of realism included in this long list can indeed be found in Defoe’s novels. But I suggest that close examination of A Journal of the Plague Year (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Journal’) and Roxana can highlight perhaps his most important authorial attribute: an ability seamlessly to amalgamate copious ‘external’ documentary detail with one individual’s ‘internal’ mental processes, as expressed via dialogue, thoughts, emotions, etc..

There has been considerable disagreement between critics during the intervening centuries over whether the form of discourse employed by Defoe in the Journal falls within the broad definition of ‘novel’. The title page of the first edition 2 indicates that it was ‘Written by a CITIZEN who continued all the while in London. Never made public before’. Britton and Brayley, writing in 1801, called it ‘a genuine piece of history’

3 . At the end of the nineteenth century, George Saintsbury placed it among Defoe’s ‘great group of fiction’, praising his ability to give ‘absolute verisimilitude to fictitious presentations’. Watson Nicholson, writing in 1919, claimed the Journal was ‘a faithful record of historical facts’. More recently, John Richetti referred to it as ‘a species of pseudo-history’, whilst Robert Mayer concluded an analysis of the work’s reception, generalising from the particular, with the ‘paradoxical and yet inescapable assertion that novels consist of matters of fact’. Perhaps this lack of consensus is not so surprising: Defoe defied definition in many aspects of his life and work. But ongoing critical disagreements such as these, through different literary eras, seem to me irrefutable evidence that here at least is a work which is not ‘pure novel’.

Clearly the ‘concretization’, to use Vodicka’s term, of a work as a specific literary form in any era will depend on a variety of factors.

In the case of Roxana, its reception on first publication will have been conditioned to a significant degree by how it introduces itself. The novel form was not yet firmly established – Defoe’s works were yet to be ‘read into’ a literary genre which was still in its infancy. The Preface has been written, it appears, by someone Defoe refers to as the ‘Relator’, who speaks the words of the lady whose story is to be told. Although the Relator admits that the ‘Story’ has been altered to conceal names and other potentially embarrassing details, the use of first person narrative and prefatorial protestations that it is ‘laid in Truth of Fact’ provided firm grounds on which unwary contemporary readers might have accepted its factual basis.

In a sense, the narrative voice in Roxana is at two removes from the real author: first, the ‘Relator’ is positioned between Defoe and the eponymous heroine; but also it is made clear in the Preface that this ‘History’9 can ‘speak for itself’.9 This claim to textual autonomy clearly prompts the contemporary reader to form conclusions and judge for himself the actions of the narrator-protagonist. The attempt to ‘objectify’ the plot, denying any interference from an author, is a mimetic device with a dual role: contemporary readers accepting the text as a ‘true history’ were more likely to receive it as an unbiassed relation of real events; those well aware that it was fictional had reassurance in advance that the tale was not over-burdened by explicit moral conclusions.

But whatever the importance of his reader’s credulity in apprehending his works as fact or fiction, it is clear that Defoe’s novels depend to a large extent on the credibility of their wider contextual settings for much of their effect. It is important to distinguish here between setting and situation. The characters are placed in settings, that is to say either natural or cultural environments, which are both testing and credible. In my next two chapters, I will examine the ways in which Defoe incorporates an unusually large volume of ‘extratextual’ references, so that extreme situational factors are balanced by the normalising influence of a carefully reconstructed setting which is familiar territory both for contemporary and (from a different perspective) for modern readers. In both Roxana and the Journal the sheer extent of Defoe’s referentiality will be one of the two key aspects on which I base my comparison with the modern docu-soap.

I am suggesting, in broad terms, that Defoe’s abundant referentiality is important in creating a credible setting within which the protagonist can be ‘tested’. But I am also persuaded by Wolfgang Iser’s more specific conclusions about the role of referentiality. In analysing the structure of literary works generally, he suggests that references to the outside world (by which he means both ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ aspects of a culture) in a literary text ‘are not intended to be a mere replica’. Rather, he says, such references are central to the strategies of the text by means of which ‘conventions, norms and traditions’,11 having been ‘removed from their original context and function’,11 are given ‘new significance’.11 For Iser, what happens in the writing of a literary text is that a ‘selective process’ occurs which produces an ‘indeterminate’ impression of reality.

In particular, Iser sees the eighteenth-century novel, with its ‘intense preoccupation with questions of morality’ and its focussing on human relations, as a balancing out of the influence of Locke’s empiricism, the dominant thought system in the eighteenth century. For Locke, human knowledge and understanding are developed by a simple process of accretion of ideas, which are ‘let in’ by the senses, ‘and furnish the yet empty cabinet’.15 There is no room, says Iser, for feelings, morality and human relations in this analysis – a significant deficiency, he suggests, which literature began to address in the eighteenth century. What literary composition can do, he goes on, ‘is set up a parallel frame within which meaningful patterns are to form’, such that possibilities which had been excluded by a society can be brought to its attention: The fact that literature supplies those possibilities which have been excluded by the prevalent system, may be the reason why many people regard ‘fiction’ as the opposite of ‘reality’; it is, in fact, not the opposite, but the complement.16

Perhaps it is here that we find the kernel of the problem of defining Defoe’s works which seems to have plagued the critics to whom I referred earlier. The notion that realities such as those created by Defoe can not only co-exist alongside our everyday world but in a sense be more complete than reality itself seems at first a slightly puzzling concept.

Comparison with the modern docu-soap form can be enlightening, as it too appears at first to offer an unadorned replica of reality. The filmic material appears to ‘speak for itself’ by way of scenes in which, as is often said, ‘the camera never lies’. But it does, of course, at least to an extent, because of the intrusion of the director: we see the world from his ‘point of view’. What we are watching is, again, a ‘parallel frame within which meaningful patterns are to form’ (to refer back to the quotation from Iser). My brief reading of an academic study of the T.V. documentary form has helped further to verify the parallelism between these separate yet related discursive modes, i.e. the novel form and the docu-soap:

What, however, is the nature of the ideal which has generated the corpus of works known, historically, as documentaries? Common to all forms so designated has been the appeal to an anterior truth. This appeal has reflected a desire … that the reality we assign to the diegesis – i.e. the ‘meta-reality’ we create by perceiving the film as meaningful – should have some congruence with the reality of the known world.

In its attempt to communicate a more complete world picture, Vaughan states, it is important for a documentary film to retain ‘congruence’ with the ‘known world’. But the reality created by a documentary is a ‘meta’-reality, designed to allow the illumination of an ‘anterior truth’. Whilst the documentary camera does not exactly lie, then, its depiction of the known world is deliberately slightly at odds with what we perceive as real. In evoking its ‘anterior truth’, it is ‘supplying … possibilities which have been excluded’ by creating new emphases, implications and connections through its selective editorial process. Later in the same monograph, Vaughan highlights the seeming paradox in what he refers to as the documentary ‘impulse … [which] … is a quest for a medium wholly transparent to the world yet still able to function as discourse’.

Iser expounded his ideas of textual strategies, and in my next chapters I will include analysis of Defoe’s use of wider referential material in building his frames of reference, which are a fundamental strategic component of his works. But I would also like to examine in more detail his tactical textual techniques. These relate both to the documentary component and to the ways in which he communicates such aspects as morality, emotions and relationships. For it seems to me that it is principally in this ‘human’ area of Defoe’s novels that the ‘indeterminacy’ of which Iser wrote is created.

By the time he wrote the Journal and Roxana, Defoe’s diegetic skills were well honed. He had been a prolific and controversial pamphleteer and had worked with the written word for over four decades. Nearly twenty years spent composing news reports seem to infuse his texts with an immediacy which adds weight to their claims of authentic reportage. There is certainly a more cosmic aspect to the works – Defoe was nothing if not ‘worldly wise’ – which accounts largely for the backgrounding factor in the docu-soap equation. But Defoe also deploys textual tactics, using techniques for the portrayal of inter-personal relationships which again prefigure methods used in the televisual form. I will be suggesting that there is a correspondence between the detail of, on the one hand, Defoe’s narrative handling of scene switching, meetings, conversations and other events and, on the other, editorial techniques applied to such events in modern docu-soaps.

In my view, the subtle re-arrangements of reality which go to the creation within the reader/viewer’s mind of the valued communication which he/she receives either from a Defoean text or from a docu-soap are a product of the fusion of these two key elements: documentary detail drawn from the real world and the reporting of personal experience.

The congruence of images or texts with everyday experience is slightly but significantly altered through a process of either textual or filmic scene selection. Clearly, because of its aural and visual nature, film has advantages over text – but in utilising copious referentiality in the context of the novel form, Defoe was creating what was technically the most advanced ‘medium’ of his day. The detailed reporting of mental and inter-personal turmoil, against that ‘cosmic’ background, combines with it to undermine our established picture of society’s norms and conventions. Defoe’s hidden craft is in his exercise of authorial licence in assembling the perceived factual or perceived fictional constituents of his work to produce a result which re-constitutes reality.

The two novels on which I am concentrating here illustrate well the textual strategies and tactics utilised by Defoe in prompting his readers to question established attitudes and ideas. In my second and third chapters respectively, I will explore the narrative devices he uses in Roxana and the Journal to undermine conventions, norms and traditions. Defoe might not have had the use of a video camera, but, drawing on his personal experiences, his journalistic encounters and his keen awareness of contemporary social, political and moral issues, he had access to more than enough factual material to allow him to portray many of the harsher realities of his time.

The development of the docu-soap genre has not been founded on a bland presentation of mere ‘events’ – and Defoe’s oeuvre is no different: the effects he creates are more a product of his ‘editorial’ technique than of raw creativity. As I will indicate, Defoe assists us towards the creation of our own meta-reality through his employment of what we might think of as the literary equivalent of the ‘edit suite’. In re-examining historical events or social situations re-presented by Defoe, his readers arrive at their own ‘anterior truths’ based on the sensitivity of his depiction of personal responses to situations which seem all too real.



The reporting of personal responses to ‘real world’ events in the T.V. docu-soap is in a direct line of discursive evolution with Roxana. The dramatic force of the docu-soap is in the intimacy of the relationship between subject and camera; roxanajpgbut while individual subjects ‘speak for themselves’, only the director can determine which shots escape the cutting room floor. The intimacy of the scenes shown appears to propel the viewer, often privy to the innermost thoughts of the featured individuals, into a position of quasi-omniscience.

Defoe’s methodology in structuring his novels was very similar to that utilised in a typical docu-soap. In summary, the narrator describes settings, reports actions and details not only dialogue but inner, personal responses to unfolding events. And the essence of Defoe’s narrative power is held within these personal responses, which are moulded and modulated by a complex of internal and external forces but centre around the instinct to survive within continually changing circumstances. These forces were not fictitious – certainly not at the time of Roxana’s publication – but reflected important aspects of eighteenth-century culture and society. At the basic level, as in Roxana’s predicament in the opening sections of the novel, her torment is both physical and mental:

in a word, all was Misery and Distress, the Face of Ruin was every where to be seen; we had eaten up almost every thing, and little remain’d, unless, like one of the pitiful Women of Jerusalem, I should eat up my very Children themselves.

For those readers living in a social stratum which could afford to buy Roxana, this ‘case history’ of the traumas inflicted by abject poverty elsewhere in their own individualistic society was subtly subversive. It offered a chilling, personal account of current suffering experienced by many real people struggling to survive at lower levels of subsistence. The immediacy of the verbatim dialogue in this early episode is evidence, perhaps, of one of the influences of his journalistic experiences in shaping Defoe’s prose style. Lennard J. Davis remarks on the way in which printed newspapers were inventing a ‘median past tense’ which was more current than the tense reserved for narratives and histories, a tense which ‘would be uniquely a journalistic one implying that what one was reading had only a slightly deferred immediacy’.

Roxana falls into a ‘violent Fit of Crying and her heart is ‘overwhelm’d’.24 But, soon after, this same heart is hardened against her children, as she decides to part with them, ‘that I might be freed from the dreadful Necessity of seeing them all perish’. In this initial decision, Defoe quietly offers his readers the opportunity to come to their own interim verdict about her actions. In appearance at least, the all-seeing eye of the literary camera has provided rather more detailed, documentary evidence than might be available to a real court of law. Roxana relates a cogent, comprehensive history of her situation, thoughts, emotions and actions, and her rationale for leaving her children to their fate. Readers are at liberty to pass their own judgment, to arrive at their own ‘truth’ about the matter.

John Richetti highlights an important tactical device used by Defoe to invoke Roxana’s feelings of sheer helplessness at this stage. Although Roxana is ‘the most voluble of Defoe’s main characters’ she can find no words to express her feelings:

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Roxana’s helplessness in this opening sequence is her ‘silence’ … here within her narrative she is reduced to silence several times, a silence that is pointed to as the only response she can muster.

The narrative force of the significant silence (the ‘text of muteness’, as Martha Nochimson calls it, in her study of the soap opera genre) is not lost on the makers of docu-soaps. Looks and glances often speak volumes. Silence, or the redundancy of the spoken word at a time of high emotion, can act as what I would term a ‘multiplicatory factor’ in either a text or a script, acknowledging the ability of the imagination to take over where words have left off. Such multiplicatory asides can be found both in descriptive narrative and in dialogue. Many instances are to be found in other contexts in Roxana, as, for instance, when the narrator-heroine half apologises for the fact that ‘it would take up too long a Part of this Story to give a particular account’ of the landlord’s kindnesses and elsewhere when she writes that ‘I might have interspers’d this Part of the Story with a great many pleasant Parts’. By remaining mute on these issues, Defoe’s narrator seems to magnify their effects by implying that words alone cannot render an adequate decription.

Defoe employs italicization as a related means of adding emphasis, slowing down the pace of the narrative and, as it were, pulling the scene closer to the reader, especially at moments of high emotion or where dialogue carries extra significance:

Well, Amy, says he, I intend to Lye with you to Morrow- Night; To Night, if you please Sir, says Amy very innocently, your Room is quite ready: Well Amy, says he, I am glad you are so willing: No, says Amy, I mean your Chamber is ready to-Night, and away she run out of the Room asham’d enough.

Another variation on this technique is what I would term the ‘close-up’. By closing in on personal conversations, Defoe seems to enforce a slowing down of the pace of his narrative and thus provides the kind of extra emphasis which can create ‘thoughtful, elongated moments’. As Paul Alkon writes of Roxana:

Defoe encourages … [readers] … to set or – what is equally important – to perceive the slower tempo of conversation … she and her readers are brought metaphorically into the relationship of speaker and auditor.

In my examination of the Journal, I will return to this aspect of Defoe’s narrative style within the broader context of a ‘narrative rhythm’ which consists of a constantly-changing focus from general scene-setting to close-up, and back again.

Other external and internal forces soon come into play in Roxana’s next relationship. At first it seems as though, in agreeing to marry the Landlord, she runs the risk of having her individuality subsumed beneath his. Having lived rent-free in his house for nine months, she feels that she has put herself under a great obligation to him. The potential extent of his power over her is neatly encapsulated in a short cameo in which the maid Amy is sent out to buy a joint of meat: instead of deciding on a specific purchase, Amy brings the butcher back with her from the shopping trip, in order that the Landlord can make up his own mind about what he wishes to eat. Admitting that she has gone against ‘all Sence of Religion, and Duty to God’, Roxana nonetheless plunges into a relationship in which ‘we were … no more than two Adulterers, in short, a Whore and a Rogue’.34

The obverse of her spiritual decision to ‘sacrifice’ her religious and moral beliefs is that in physical terms she retains control over her own destiny. As she herself puts it, she goes into the relationship ‘with my Eyes open, and with my Conscience, as I may say, awake’. In fact, Roxana commands an important level of control within what is, essentially, a three-cornered relationship: Amy’s entry into a life of whoredom is instigated by Roxana herself; and the Landlord draws up a will which will provide his ‘wife’ with considerable wealth in the event of his death. This action by the Landlord is not the carefree munificence of a lovelorn paramour, as John P. Zomchick makes clear:

No matter what intentional turn is accorded the Landlord’s rhetoric and despite his motives for helping Roxana, his words and actions reveal an implicit understanding of the value and efficacy of reciprocity and trust in what is clearly a “market” transaction … Instead of caveat emptor, the Landlord exhibits a much more complex form of calculation that embodies his individualist moral economy … Roxana is not a wife but is like one, fashioned by agreement and granted limited powers.

But Roxana’s own rationalisations for the choices she makes are just as firmly founded in individualistic values. The outcome of this early collision in her mind between economic and moral/religious values is a decision to prioritise self-preservation over the assured well-being of her children: a happy fate for her children was by no means certain when they were dumped on her husband’s relations. The success, while it lasts, of her survival strategy is rooted throughout in her tactical use of skills in inter-personal negotiation, rather than, as at least some contemporary readers might have expected, in moral or religious fortitude. As John Richetti says:

For Roxana … an environment is ultimately a set of external problems to be analysed and solved rather than a set of involving and ineffable determinants.

So it is the tactical implementation and adaptation of this survival strategy which forms the body of Roxana. In its link into what I am calling the docu-soap genre, the real significance of the fact that she goes into the questionable partnership with the Landlord is not contained in the nature of the dilemma she faces nor indeed in the decision she makes, though these are both ‘grist to the mill’, but quite simply in the cold fact that she ‘survives’.

For if we regard her life with her husband and the children as the novel’s first ‘episode’, what becomes clear as we move from this second part of Roxana’s story to the third instalment, is that again there has been no closure, no determination ‘built in’ to the narrative by Defoe himself. The event of the Landlord’s death has kept alive the uncertainty of Roxana’s future. In Nochimson’s commentary on the T.V. soap opera genre, such an absence of closure is represented as signifying a rejection of male control by female ‘subjects’, who rebel against becoming ‘objects’ of desire, ultimately to be controlled. Thus they continually reassert their own individualism:

Without closure to support the hero’s desire for control, the soap opera narrative became a reflection of the heroine’s desire to resist control.

Roxana survives the untimely end of her partnership with the Landlord, finding a new companion in the Dutch merchant. She soon faces danger from the Jew -‘Innocence may be oppress’d by such an impudent Fellow as this’ – as he threatens to take away her jewels. But her relationship with the Dutch Merchant (‘the generous Friendship of my Deliverer, the Dutch Merchant’ ) remains on an equal footing and he assists her in making an ‘Escape from the Ruin that threaten’d me’.

We know from his other writings that Defoe had firm views about issues such as marriage, remarriage, the laws of property and the education of women. Berating the outcome of her own marriage, Roxana counsels other women never to marry a fool – ‘any Husband rather than a Fool’ – reflecting precisely the advice Defoe offered in a piece entitled Brides Beware! in an issue of the Review dated October 4th, 1707:

the worst thing a sober woman can be married to is a FOOL. Of whom whoever has the lot, Lord have mercy, and a cross should be set on the door as of a house infected with the plague.

Roxana is continually plagued with what turn out to be unsatisfactory relationships, as she struggles to retain her individuality and to follow her individualist track. Whereas the primary dangers to the well-being of Crusoe and H.F. are posed by the natural world, Roxana’s fate depends largely on her handling of human relationships, which is reported using the autobiographical convention and the recounting, either verbatim or in detailed summary, of dialogue.

In a society in which a good name is the most precious of possessions – even above fine clothes and jewels – it is the consequences for her reputation of infection from her own history which constitutes the ‘external’ threat to Roxana:

I wou’d not have been seen, so as to be known by the Name of Roxana, no, not for ten Thousand Pounds; it wou’d have been enough to have ruin’d me to all Intents and Purposes with my Husband, and everybody else too.

The subjectivism of this intimate, dialogical narrative has a dual referential significance: first, it enables Defoe to tap into a range of current issues and events (as do today’s docu-soaps), enhancing the narrative’s (perceived) real or apparent authenticity by bringing societal issues into the arena of personal experience. For contemporary readers, these conversational fragments would work semiotically, perhaps signalling the reader’s own knowledge or personal experiences, and thereby colouring his or her reactions to the narrative.

Thus, early in the novel, Defoe’s ‘literary microphone’ listens in to a debate, between the husband and wife who take in Roxana’s children, about the potential effects of the Law for the Better Relief of the Poor (1662). Arguments over the implementation of this law made it a source of much anguish for those directly and indirectly affected by the law’s provisions. Such referentiality is important in establishing and embellishing a sense of time and place and, as well as alluding to such issues, Defoe incorporates copious background references, peppering the novel throughout with the names of places in London, France and Holland and well-known personages (the ‘Dauphine’ (sic), Sir Robert Clayton, the Duke of Monmouth, an oblique allusion to Nell Gwynne, et al).

Further documentary ‘local colour’ runs through the work in the form of a long and scattered list of names of financial instruments, e.g., ‘livres’, ‘portion’, ‘composition’, ‘plate’, ‘shilling’, ‘guineas’, ‘half a crown’, ‘a foreign bill’, ‘jointure’, ‘pistoles’, ‘assignment’, ‘crowns’, ‘pin-money’, ‘pounds’, ‘Goldsmiths’ Bills’, ‘account-courant’, ‘bottomree’ and ‘fee-farm-rents’. Taken together, these various references help to convey the ethos of the environments, the ambient social milieux, within which Roxana moves.

The other significant consequence of the subjectivity of the reported dialogue in Roxana is to add credence to its apparent authenticity as a factual report (or ‘history’). The course of the Roxana narrative prefigures the modern editorial process in which some of the everyday effects on individuals of a number of utterly real issues are explored in real world situations. Clearly the T.V. director has a number of points to make – and a docu-soap will not result automatically by leaving a camera running in a room or on a street corner. Essentially, the director shares with Defoe the need to assemble – in the director’s case from ‘parts’ gathered by filming living people – viable characters who will communicate the view of reality which he or she wishes to communicate.

In Defoe’s case, these constructs – not ‘mere replicas’ – are based very loosely on various re-named actual personages and/or representatives of a particular social class or type. Roxana, according to John Robert Moore, is modelled partly on ‘the notorious Mrs. Mary Butler’ and partly on the ‘ugly but graceful’ Mademoiselle Bardou. But in an important sense these are real people, in that Defoe seems to use every legal and literary device available to him both to create portraits ‘taken from the life’ and to avoid his own moral agenda obtruding between protagonist and reader.

So it would be wrong to assume that Defoe’s main aim was to have his work read as simple allegory. Rather, he seems to leave to individual readers the task of evaluating how his characters cope with the complex situations in which they find themselves. As in a docu-soap, whilst moral issues may be explored, there is no editorially-imposed moralising such as is found, for instance, in Tom Jones. Roxana’s maidservant, Amy, clearly has a certain duty of service and trust, but in allowing herself to be turned into a whore she takes this duty to lengths which exceed all moral bounds. She is not so much compliant as an active agent in Roxana’s grand strategy and, with a few exceptions late in the novel, Roxana heaps unstinting praise on her. And yet, as Tony Henderson points out in a recently-published work on prostitution in London, Defoe expressed strong feelings about maidservants in a piece written in the year following the publication of Roxana:

Defoe … writing in 1725, believed many of London’s prostitutes to be out-of-work maidservants, although he blamed the women’s own greed and lack of foresight. More especially, he complained of their ‘amphibious’ lifestyle, moving from ‘Bawdy-House to Service and from Service to Bawdy-House again’,47 thus rendering themselves unfit for either position.

In the light of this published view, Roxana’s ongoing character reference for Amy could be construed as ironisation.

Conversely, irony is in the eye of the beholder and is easily overlooked in such instances. The unique personal experiences of readers may well have curtailed or even nullified any allegorical effect. The crucial fact here is that we can never be sure of Defoe’s true intention or his own actual point of view. John Richetti’s general point is particularly apt when applied to Defoe:

Conscious intention is an important factor in the meaning of narrative, but it is by no means the whole story … story-telling is by its nature something different from discursive statement, something dynamic and relational in which discursive statement plays only a role and a role in which it is often transformed into something quite unlike itself.

On the other hand, Ian Watt’s suggestion that ‘all Defoe’s novels are … ethically neutral because they make formal realism an end rather than a means’ seems to me to be wide of the mark. The inner:outer tension which is a driving force in Defoean narrative is entirely a product of his editorial skills. Each ethical and socio-economic sphere within which his protagonists move is as much a construct (not a ‘mere replica’ ) as are his individual characters: their decision-making takes place within a combination of societal circumstances which Defoe has himself assembled, albeit from real world materials.

Defoe’s formal realism is not a bespoke commodity, a pre-existing state which is available only according to standard specifications. His socio-economic, religious and political back-cloths hang from real world supports but the scenario itself is constructed for the task in hand, as he depicts a distinctively-formulated set of personal circumstances. His editorial strategy is pointed and subversive, subtly challenging his readers to think for themselves, to reject received wisdom and enter into a process of evaluating specific, individual character in specific ethical environment.

Liz Bellamy explores this evaluative role of readers of the time, referring to the complexity of novelistic structures during the eighteenth century, a time of moral uncertainty which saw a ‘conflict between opposing ideas of the moral role of fiction and of the nature of the reading public in the commercial state’. It was becoming clearer that society was not an amorphous mass but rather an aggregation of discrete individuals, to whom the novel could appeal because of its ‘location … within the realm of private experience and private morality’.53 Importantly, the novel’s

moral judgements were not based on the articulation of absolute and universal principles, but on the analysis of personal circumstances. Experience was the key to the moral structure of most of the novels of the eighteenth century …53

This is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in an extended passage in which Roxana imagines the lifestyle which beckons her, were she to leave the Dutch Merchant to become the wife of a Prince:

I had a strange Elevation upon my Mind; and the Prince, or the Spirit of him , had such a Possession of me, that I spent most of this Time in the realizing all the Great Things of a Life with the Prince, to my Mind … and withal, wickedly studying in what Manner to put off this Gentleman … and I frequently argued with myself upon the Obligation I was under, to him … H

ere Defoe broadcasts another report from the inner point of view of a mind caught up in the socio-economic whirl of eighteenth-century individualism – with its plotting, self-evaluation, self-congratulation and remorse – through the novel form into the public arena. Tied in with their referentiality to the dilemma being faced by many people of the time, such passages provide new insights into the way the mind converses with itself, in a reflexive dialogue which charts the currents of psychological turmoil. Soon after this, Roxana’s history sets out once more on a new pathway.

As Defoe’s ‘narrative camera’ tracks every significant move in her quasi-Faustian struggle between the temptations of worldly wealth, the insistent pull of moral precepts and finally the snares of her own personal history, it seems to comprehend all aspects of the physical and mental dimensions of each episode. In Story & History, William Ray writes of Roxana’s efforts to ‘negotiate’ reality, as she deploys ‘rhetorical energy’ to negotiate contractual relationships which will provide her with the lifestyle and spiritual peace which she seeks.

Roxana has spent a large proportion of her life in privileged surroundings; but what she shares with real individuals in the real world, the dramatis personae created by docu-soaps and fellow characters in novels is an inability to reconstruct her own life. Ironically, that editorial privilege is the sole domain of writers and directors.

So there is no final closure, even at the end of the novel, and it is quite clear from the text that Defoe deliberately leaves open the possibility of a sequel. Towards the end of the story, Roxana indicates that she is about to ‘go back to another Scene … which will compleat all my concern with England, at least, all that I shall bring into this Account’. We can justifiably surmise that at the time of writing Defoe may well have intended to develop new avenues for the tale in a follow-up volume.

There is of course plenty of evidence of Roxana’s fear that Amy had murdered Susan, and this could be explained easily in relation to her paranoia. She describes many symptoms which are consistent with fear-induced, wild imaginings. There is no application of habeas corpus (as it were) in the novel, no dead body to settle the matter of Susan’s demise. Although the Quaker had demonstrated some naivetŽ on previous occasions, her recounting of Amy’s explanation of how she had persuaded her to stop pursuing Roxana seems just as credible as Roxana’s murder theory. Indeed, the Quaker is quite insistent that ‘Amy didn’t talk like that; I dare say, thou may’st be easie in that, Amy has nothing of that in her head’.

It seems strange that Roxana’s fury with Amy should wane to the extent that, by two paragraphs from the end of the book, she is referring to Amy as ‘my old Agent’ of whom she ‘did not yet despair’ of hearing. With one bound, as it were, Amy rejoins her in this same paragraph, despite having omitted to assure the Quaker that she had not killed Susan (‘notwithstanding this, she came over afterwards’). Roxana ‘can say no more now’, but, by the last paragraph of all, she is suffering the calamities which seemed ordained by heaven because of ‘the Injury done the poor Girl, by us both’. It may be relevant that Amy’s relations in Spittlefields ‘beliv’d Amy had carry’d her to pay her a Sum of Money’.

The indeterminacy, the lack of closure, is extreme and so reminiscent of the soap opera genre. Was there a real ‘Sum of Money’ – and, if so, was it Roxana’s bribe to Susan? Was it a bounty for Amy, Roxana’s ‘old Agent’, as wages for killing Susan (‘the Injury done the poor Girl, by us both)? If Amy rejoined Roxana, what account did she give of the matter? We are not told. Was the whole thing a figment of Roxana’s paranoia?

Did Defoe intend to write a sequel?



The Journal’s currency at the time of its appearance was not merely to do with its relevance to the threatened return of the plague. There is no Preface, but the book’s title page indicates that the document has ‘Never been made publick before’; and in his second paragraph the narrator, ‘H.F.’, alludes to improvements in communication – such as newspapers – which have come about since the plague year, ‘as I have liv’d to see practis’d since’.61 The hint here is that the putative author is still alive. And the indeterminacy of the time of writing removes any firm objection to this being too old a work to have modern relevance. Its currency, as perceived by many contemporary readers, would have been in the mint condition of a report some fifty-seven years old, as well as in the decision to publish now (i.e. in 1722).

plague_yearIndeed, in a way the novel is not so much an historical work as a story set in the near future. Defoe had been issuing dire warnings of the consequences of the importation of the plague from the continent for many years but the danger became imminent in July 1720, when the disease broke out in Marseilles. Walpole’s government needed to keep out ships which might be carrying the plague but a statute would threaten severe adverse consequences for trade, probably accompanied by political repercussions. The socio-political project of the Journal was to bring before the public consciousness a ‘slice-of-life’ picture which would dramatise with sufficient impact the potential chaos which might soon engulf the country if suitable measures were not taken. Other writers were also addressing the issue at the time. But, arguably, the Journal in this context is the prime vehicle for mass market propaganda about the threat. Under the guise of a newly-discovered historical record, the Journal presents a shocking assemblage of scenes from a horrific past which could suddenly spring to life again at any time.

Manuel Schonhorn analysed the Journal’s topographical references to places and buildings in London and concluded that

Defoe has concentrated upon landmarks and conspicuous objects of the London scene of 1665, all therefore chronologically relevant to the Plague Year; at the same time, these locations and structures were still part of the London scene of 1720.

Such documentary scene-setting is a primary support in the construction of what Iser refers to as the ‘parallel frame’, the familiar territory which acts as a stable reference point in such texts.

Whether or not the Journal was received by its first readers as a piece of fiction or as a historical document, the fact of the plague itself is of course undeniable. And whether cameos of how individuals might have faced up to such circumstances can ever justify a place in a history, there is equally no denying that Defoe’s narrative provides us with what appears to be a supreme evocation of some of the stark realities of that time. The Journal in its day was equivalent to the more ‘hard-hitting’ kind of television docu-soap of our time.

For the Journal is about people, not stereotypes. The validity of the concept of a single ‘human nature’ is tested in a war-like environment which often denies individuality. The individual’s everyday occupation is jetissoned as all are levelled to the common task of fighting for their lives. H.F.’s own individual response to the dire events centres initially around his dilemma about whether to leave the city to avoid catching the disease. He concludes that it is the ‘Will of Heaven that he should not go, despite the argument of his brother that there is no reason for him to stay. His decision (as elsewhere) is not one with which Defoe obliges us to concur, however. These are ‘observations’ by a ‘citizen’, we are told by the title page. Barbara Foley makes the point that there is no ‘novelistic contract’ in the Journal, so that ‘we may agree or disagree with H.F.’s views, admire or disrespect his responses’. Although Defoe’s views are a ‘felt presence’, says Foley, ‘documentary validation serves not to corroborate a view of reality … but to enhance the authenticity of a voice that holds its own construction of events to be self-evident’.

The piling up of authentic statistics drawn from real Bills of Mortality, records published each week by the Company of Parish Clerks, is morbidly ironic, a matter-of-fact summary like a commercial audit of goods in a store-room. And here indeed is an example of the role played by the novel in ‘complementing reality’: the bare fact of the mathematical summation is swiftly translated into the grisly panorama of a society of individuals wracked by mental and physical anguish. One of the novel’s great achievements is its harsh reminder that a concomitant to the outer menace of the plague itself, and by implication to similar tragedies, is our inner tendency to de-personalise the victim, using reported computations of deaths as a dissociative shorthand for individual agonies. In our own world of T.V. ‘sound-bites’, such an insight can perhaps be seen to have stood the test of time.

Put another way, the function of the recurring mortality tables in the Journal is to mimic the format of information which might be listed in a newspaper report of the plague. Newspaper reports could never offer any more than a prŽcis of events, utilising jargonistic typologies which are far removed from the realm of real life. Defoe’s tactic is juxtapositional. He provides us with the stories behind the headlines, the truths anterior to the statistics. He translates the classified encapsulations of the mortality Bills into the vocabulary and speech forms of everyday life. And in this translation we see another equivalence with the modern docu-soap. The docu-soap also typically introduces and refers back to its subjects as class-types, using familiar signifiers to trigger stock responses, whilst all the time disassembling these responses by juxtaposing ever-deeper insight into individual, real characters.

As in Roxana, survival is a key theme. The role of the city’s authorities is always ambivalent and we may find ourselves questioning both their wisdom and their morality, as when one particular householder and his family are forced to stay locked in the same house as their infected maid, despite the evident danger to themselves. The master of the house threatens to allow the maid to starve, as they are determined not to go near her. But while the watchman is away finding a nurse, the family breaks through the walls to the shop next door and the next day are able to make their escape. Such stories, opines the narrator, are very certain to be true, or very near the Truth; that is to say, true in the General, for no Man could at such a Time, learn all the Particulars.

As the disease grows more rampant, its enormity is indeed almost too great for H.F., who finds that he ‘cannot undertake to give any other than a Summary …’ in a situation in which ‘… it was not possible to come at the Particulars’. I expropriated the expression ‘text of muteness’ from a critical work about soap opera in my assessment of Roxana and we find this rather similar technique employed thus in many such passages throughout the Journal. Here, despite his descriptive prowess, the narrator feels the limitations of his chosen medium and on occasions even signals frustration with it:

were it possible to represent those Times exactly to those that did not see them and give the Reader due Ideas of the Horror that every where presented it self, it must make just Impressions upon their Minds and fill them with Surprize.

Such an observation may seem to sit oddly in a work which self-evidently communicates the plague’s effects with stark clarity. Defoe has little need of a film camera. The necessities either to generalise or to impose selective editorial focus in no way work to understate the horrors – rather the reverse. But the reality surely is that Defoe is well aware of this: in the above passage, as elsewhere, H.F. deftly applies a multiplying factor to subsequent description by claiming that he cannot find words to render it adequately. In point of fact, absolute verisimilitude is not a worthwhile objective, as our own imaginations are well able to take over where his words leave off. In other words, we supply the missing descriptors by constructing them ourselves. Rather than representing those times ‘exactly’, H.F.’s ‘muteness’, his human failing in being unable to ‘represent … exactly’, excuses him from the very task which might have blurred one of the most valuable characteristics of his prose.

Sandra Sherman notes that the plague ‘continually escapes (en)closure’. She explores the ‘instability’ of the Journal, which shies away from ‘linear, resolute narrative’, citing as an example the passage in which H.F. has caught the hat thieves and threatened to fetch the Lord Mayor’s officers. The problem with such a course of action would be in the necessity for encounters with people of unknown health, with the possible outcome that

I might lose my own Life; so I contented my self, with taking the Names and Places where some of them lived, who were really Inhabitants in the Neighbourhood; and threatning that my Brother should call them to an Account for it, when he return’d to his Habitation.

This is of course a typically open-ended outcome, reminiscent of the docu-soap with its ongoing human dilemmas, resolutions of which – because they are drawn from real, ongoing human experience – are constantly deferred to another episode (or sometimes another series). For Sherman, the quotation illustrates ‘the resistance of phenomena to entextualisation’ in a Defoean acknowledgement, she says, that it is impossible to render true reality through literary texts:

The imperfect roster, coupled with a threat whose outcome cannot be reported, evince at the level of text (the list) and metatext (A Journal) plague’s counterpressure against entextualisation.

Defoe’s ‘metatextual’ descriptions of the horror and its human consequences are nonetheless extraordinarily detailed and memorable. His vivid verbal landscapes draw on a range of documentary sources. He almost certainly had meetings with the librarian Paul Lorrain, for instance, who had probably read Samuel Pepys’ diary, in which was recorded Pepys’ stay in London during the plague. Pepys also described its effects in correspondence, e.g. in a letter to Lady Elizabeth Carteret, dated September 4th, 1665, in which he speaks of ‘whole families being swept away’ and even the death of his own physician. But we can surmise that Defoe also recalled his own encounter with the plague pits as a young boy. All of this argues for the authenticity of his wider documentary source material, even if he was much too young in 1665 to write his journal at the time of the plague itself.

But the abundance of much more detailed description in the Journal also seems to me to be significant. Lennard J. Davis finds the same phenomenon elsewhere in Defoe, noting that Robinson Crusoe is ‘so full of lists and micro-observations’. Three such ‘micro-observations’ in the Journal may suffice to illustrate my point. In the opening paragraphs there are some curiously specific references to the weather, such as the ‘sharp tho’ moderate Winds’ which attended an early outbreak of the plague. In the tale of the three travellers, H.F. refers to the making of imitation guns, wrapped in cloths and rags, ‘as Soldiers do in wet Weather, to preserve the locks of their pieces from Rust’. And a later description quotes the opinion of one man, learned in the constitutional well-being of poultry, that the breath of a person infected with plague would kill a cock or a hen, or if not ‘it would cause them to be roupy, as they call it’.

Roland Barthes points up the apparent superfluity of such ‘circumstantial details’, which can be strangely powerful in the creation of an ‘effet de rŽal’:

notations which no function (not even the most indirect) can justify: such notations are scandalous (from the point of view of structure), or, what is even more disturbing, they seem to correspond to a kind of narrative luxury, lavish to the point of offering many ‘futile’ details and thereby increasing the cost of narrative information.

But Barthes goes on to say that such details ‘say nothing but this: we are the real … the very absence of the signified, to the advantage of the referent alone, becomes the very signifier of realism’. I think this is right: mundane documentary detail acts as a kind of artificial horizon in a surreal world which is being tossed and turned. So, conversely, perhaps Sherman is wrong to generalise about the ‘instability’ of the Journal’s narrative, i.e. in ignoring the presence of these important, stable, reference points. Such circumstantial detail is a point of stability in a text, like a drone note in an Indian raga, humming along incessantly whilst all the themes around it sound amplified and exaggerated by comparison.

As a foil to his cataloguing of the hellish external manifestations of the disease, Defoe’s portrayal of the mental suffering of the inhabitants of the doomed city in the Journal – and indeed how individuals express their anguish in words – no doubt draws on his years of face-to-face encounters as a reporter with those who found themselves in extremis:

new forms of content … [were] … required to widen the readership of papers and secure the custom of women and of semi- literates … Defoe had stood at the foot of the scaffold to collect the dying words of convicts … Every morbid interest was captured by the papers, all bizarre occurrences, sexual outrage and romantic adventure.

Bizarre effects on the psyches of both frightened individuals and groups of people are accorded a first hand account by H.F. One woman’s claim to see ‘an Angel cloth’d in white, with a fiery Sword in his Hand’ provokes hysteria among the surrounding crowd. But H.F. calmly vouchsafes to us his own individual response: ‘I could see nothing’. In this and similar episodes Defoe makes visible a non-physical landscape, where bewilderment and uncertainty produce a socio-psychic environment which is just as horrific as the physical manifestations of the plague.

The episodic narrative rhythm in the Journal typically (though with many variations) moves from the general to the particular to the personal, and back again. My observation of modern docu-soaps suggests that they also exhibit a similar tendency to move in and out from general scene-setting to intimate dialogue and monologue. In a passage towards the middle of the book, for instance, we find Defoe in ‘long focus’, writing in general terms about how the Lord Mayor tried to ease the misery of the poor with various measures. Then he describes the more particular case of a neighbour who sent his apprentice to collect money from a shopkeeper, who died shortly after answering the door. The next passage, which recounts how the female thieves stole hats from the narrator’s own brother, is told, as it were, in close-up, in the first person. After this we move back to ‘hearsay’, as the narrator hears ‘from his own mouth’ the story of John Hayward’s experiences in assisting with the death-carts in the parish of St. Stephen Coleman-Street. Finally in this sequence, the narrative view moves back once more to long-shot, the narrator reverting to a more general commentary about the ‘brutal courage’ of the poor, the group who seem to have suffered most.

This narrative rhythm is an important structural component in Defoe’s editorial methodology: it bonds the containing framework of documented events in the wider world to the experiential commentary of the narrator and the plight of the individuals he describes, creating an objective:subjective continuum in which harsh factual material and personal mental and physical experience are complementary. The work’s largely episodic structure produces a lifelike, scene-by-scene flow of discrete events. But just as the physical effects of the plague accumulate, so its repercussions on the sensibilities of both the populace and the narrator are cumulative. The scene-by-scene progression of these twinned themes acts thereby as an effective substitute for an over-arching plot structure.

There are, of course, some all-too-obvious differences between docu-soap and the Journal, in terms of their era and between book and television. But consider their methodologies. Docu-soap takes as its raw material factual, filmed recordings; the Journal utilises factual, textual records. As we have seen, both compositional approaches produce a narrative form which at first seems to hover irritatingly between the factual and the fictional. But ultimately, I would argue, both forms dissolve the distinction between fact and fiction by producing a stronger rendering of reality, formed from an amalgam of both.



I have suggested that these two texts and the docu-soap form pose similar problems of definition. I have also suggested that, ignoring ultimately irrelevant differences in the medium employed and the time when the works were produced, we can discern important parallels in their narrative strategies and tactics. In this comparison between the two texts I have examined and the recent emergence of the docu-soap form in television, my objective has been to question Defoe’s true purpose in writing his novels. In the light of a different perspective on some of his methods, I have attempted to show that Defoe created texts which remain open to as wide a range of possible interpretations as is the latest docu-soap. For some, his works are subversive – but subversion, as with irony, needs to be apprehended to be appreciated. Is a docu-soap subversive if its ‘anterior truth’ goes over most people’s heads?

Defoe’s experience of life is reflected both in his subject matter and in his methodology. By the time he wrote these novels he had experienced a plethora of personal tribulations, some caused by financial mismanagement, others by political adventurism. But he had learned, too, from vicarious experience through direct contact with others who had fallen on hard times. He had also learned diplomacy. His works clearly needed to exhibit discretion if they were to be generally accepted.

So the term ‘novel’ seems too limiting when applied to these two works. Both have a narrative structure which is firmly embedded in events in the outside world; but, by what I have referred to as a selective, editorial process akin to that used by the docu-soap director, both can produce subtle distortions of an individual’s established view of the world – what Iser called an ‘indeterminate’ view of reality.

So many aspects of our culture still depend on the polarised fact:fiction distinction. Perhaps new terminology is required to describe Defoe’s works. The expression ‘serial realism’ seems to me a possible candidate, especially as it would embrace the key aspects of these texts and the docu-soap format. It might be argued that the cultural environments of the eighteenth and twentieth centuries are too disparate for valid comparisons to be made. My response to this objection would be simply to argue that the perceived relevance and worth of Defoe’s works are as high as ever: cultural distance is a relative concept.


1. Primary texts

A. Defoe

Defoe, Daniel, A Journal of the Plague Year (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969, repr. 1998)

Defoe, Daniel, A Journal of the Plague Year, (London: Nutt, Roberts, Dodd, Graves, 1722), [n.p].

Defoe, Daniel, Roxana (London: Penguin Books, 1982, repr. 1987)

Payne, William, L., ed.The Best of Defoe’s Review, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951)

B. Others

Camus, Albert, La Peste, ed. by Strachan, W.J. (London: Methuen & Co., 1962)

Letters and the Second Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. by Howarth, R. G. (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1932)

Locke, John An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London: T. Basset, 1690) [n.p.]; repr. understanding/chapter0101.html.

2. Documentary and soap opera criticism

Nochimson, Martha, No End To Her: Soap Opera and The Female Subject (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)

Vaughan, Dai, Television Documentary Usage (London: BFI Television Monograph, 1976)

3. Secondary sources

Alkon, Paul K., Defoe & Fictional Time (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979)

Barthes, Roland, ‘The Reality Effect’ in The Rustle of Language (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986)

Bastian, F., Defoe’s Early Life, (London: Macmillan, 1981)

Bellamy, Liz, Commerce, Morality and the Eighteenth-Century Novel, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Britton, John, F.S.A., and Brayley, Edward Wedlake, The Beauties of England & Wales (London: Vernor, Hood & Sharpe, 1801)

Brown, Homer Obed, Institutions of the English Novel (Philadelphia: Penn, 1997)

Davis, Lennard J., Factual Fictions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983)

Doherty, Francis, A Study in Eighteenth-Century Advertising Methods (n. p.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993)

Downie, J. A., Robert Harley & The Press (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979)

Flanders, W. Austin, Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and the modern urban experience, repr. in A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. by Byrd, Max (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1976)

Foley, Barbara, Telling the Truth: The Theory and Practice of Documentary Fiction (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1986)

Furbank, P.N. and Owens, W.R., Critical Bibliography of Daniel Defoe (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1998)

Henderson, Tony, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London (London: Longman, 1999)

Hunter, J. Paul, Before Novels (New York & London: Norton, 1990)

Iser, Wolfgang, The Act of Reading (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978)

Jauss, Hans Robert, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1982)

Kramnick, Isaac, Bolingbroke & His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the Age of Walpole (London: O.U.P., 1968)

Mayer, Robert, History and the early English Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Moore, John Robert, Daniel Defoe: Citizen of the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958)

Nicholson, Watson, The Historical Sources of Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (Boston: Stratford, 1919)

Novak, Maximillian Erwin, Defoe and the Nature of Man, (London: Oxford University Press, 1963)

Porter, Roy, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (Middlesex: Pelican, 1982)

Ray, William, Story & History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990)

Richetti, John J., Defoe’s Narratives – Situations & Structures (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975)

Richetti, John J., Daniel Defoe (Boston: Twayne, 1987)

Saintsbury, George, A Short History of English Literature (London: Macmillan & Co., 1898, repr. 1964)

Sauerberg, Lars OlŽ, Fact into Fiction: Documentary Realism in the Contemporary Novel (London: Macmillan, 1991)

Schonhorn, Manuel, ‘Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year: Topography & Intention’, in Review of English Studies, 19 (London: [n. pub.], 1968)

Sherman, Sandra, Finance & Fictionality in the Early Eighteenth Century: Accounting for Defoe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Smith, Anthony, The Newspaper: An International History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979)

Vaid, Sudesh, The Divided Mind: Studies in Defoe & Richardson (New Delhi: APH, 1979)

Vodicka, Felix, Struktura Vyvoje (Prague: Odeon, 1969)

Watt, Ian, The Rise of the Novel (Great Britain: Chatto & Windus, 1957; repr. London: The Hogarth Press, 1987)

Zomchick, John. P., Family and the Law in eighteenth-century fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)


1. Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (Great Britain: Chatto & Windus, 1957; repr. London: The Hogarth Press, 1987), pp. 13-27.

2. Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, (London: Nutt, Roberts, Dodd, Graves, 1722), [n.p.]

John Britton, F.S.A. and Edward Wedlake Brayley, The Beauties of England & Wales (London: Vernor, Hood & Sharpe, 1801), [n.p.].

George Saintsbury, A Short History of English Literature (London: Macmillan & Co., 1898, repr. 1964), pp. 547-8.

Watson Nicholson, The Historical Sources of Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” (Boston: Stratford, 1919), p. 97.

John Richetti, Daniel Defoe (Boston: Twayne, 1987), p. 119.

Robert Mayer, History and the early English novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 239.

F. Vodicka, Struktura Vyvoje (Prague: Odeon, 1969), p. 199.

Daniel Defoe, Roxana (London: Penguin Books, 1982, repr. 1987), p. 35. Roxana, p. 35.

Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), p. 69.

Iser, Reading, p. 71.

ibid., p. 70.

ibid., p. 73.

John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London: T. Basset, 1690) [n.p.]; repr.

Iser, Reading, p. 71.

Iser, p. 71.

Dai Vaughan, Television Documentary Usage (London: BFI Television Monograph, 1976), p. 1.

Iser, Reading, p. 73.

Vaughan, Documentary, p. 26.

Roxana, pp. 50-51.

Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 73.

ibid., p. 73.

Roxana, p. 51.

John J. Richetti, Defoe’s Narratives – Situations & Structures (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), p. 202

ibid., p. 202.

Martha Nochimson, No End To Her: Soap Opera and the Female Subject (Chicago: Univergo Press, 1993), p. 148.

Roxana p. 58.

ibid., p. 120.

ibid., p. 67.

Nochimson, No End, p. 15.

Paul Alkon, Defoe & Fictional Time (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), p. 187.

See infra, pp. 41-42.

Roxana, p. 78.

ibid., p. 79.

John P. Zomchick, Family and the law in eighteenth-century fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 43-44.

Richetti, Narratives, p. 195.

Nochimson, No End, p. 118.

Roxana, p. 156.

ibid., p. 159.

ibid., p. 160.

Roxana, p. 40.

The Best of Defoe’s Review, ed. by William L. Payne (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951), p. 231.

Roxana, p. 317.

ibid., p. 57.

See supra, p. 5.

John Robert Moore, Daniel Defoe: Citizen of the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 249-250.

Andrew Moreton (pseudonym for Daniel Defoe), Every-Body’s Business is Nobody’s Business ([n. pl.]: [n. pub.], 1725), p. 7.

Tony Henderson, Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London (London: Longman, 1999), p. 16.

Richetti, Defoe’s Narratives, p. 132.

Watt, Rise, p. 117.

See supra, p. 5.

Liz Bellamy, Commerce, Morality and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 63.

Roxana, pp. 278-9.

William Ray, Story & History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), p. 81.

Roxana, p. 311.

ibid., p. 373.

Roxana, p. 378.

ibid., p. 373.

ibid., p. 373.

ibid., p. 373.

ibid., p. 379.

ibid., p. 374.

Journal, [n.p.].

Manuel Schonhorn, ‘Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year: Topography & Intention’, in Review of English Studies, 19 (London: [n. pub.], 1968), p. 387.

See supra, p. 6.

Journal, p. 10.

Barbara Foley, Telling the Truth (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1986), p. 120.

ibid., p. 120.

Journal, p. 52.

Journal, p. 120.

See infra, p. 15.

Journal, p. 16.

Sandra Sherman, Finance & Fictionality in the Early Eighteenth Century: Accounting for Defoe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 149.

ibid., p. 149.

Journal, p. 88.

Sherman, Finance, p. 146.

ibid., p. 147.

Letters and the Second Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. by R.G. Howarth (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1932), p. 24.

F. Bastian, Defoe’s Early Life, (London: Macmillan, 1981), p. 26.

Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 73.

Journal, p. 4.

Journal, p. 135.

Journal, p. 203.

Roland Barthes, ‘The Reality Effect’ in The Rustle of Language (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), [n.p.].

Anthony Smith, The Newspaper: an international history (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979), p. 63).

Journal, p. 22.

Journal, p. 223

Journal, pp. 85-90, passim.

Copyright 2015 Richard Fox; all right reserved.

One response to “Serial Realism

  1. Pingback: Book review: The Fox by Frederick Forsyth | Richard Fox's blog

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