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Rise of the Novel 2018
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The juxtaposition between the NER generated list of geographical mentions and the NER generated list of monetary mentions within Robinson Crusoe cement Defoe’s novel as a distinctly colonial yet pre-capitalist text. Robinson Crusoe is a novel concerned with wealth and social mobility as much, if not more, than it is a text about survival. The novel opens with Crusoe meditating on his socio-economic positioning. Before departing on his journey Crusoe is informed that, “It was for men of desperate fortunes on one hand, or of aspiring, superior fortunes on the other, who went abroad” (6). While this warning appears to set up a cautionary tale for those who fail to appreciate “the middle of the two extremes, between the mean and the great” (6) the novel ultimately concludes with Crusoe returning from his Odyssey to a sizable fortune. Quantitative data bears out this categorization of Robinson Crusoe as a novel concerned primarily with fortune. If we map the locations mentioned throughout the novel we see that––apart from biblical references to Israel and Egypt and a early descriptions of Crusoe’s background––almost all mentioned locations fall along either epicenters of the triangle trade or Portuguese outposts along the Swahili coast. However, despite the fact that the novel’s geographic locations are tied directly to the exchange wealth, the NER recognizes only one reference to actual money, early in the novel, wherein Crusoe recounts “I did not carry quite £100 of my new gained wealth” (16) on an early voyage. There is a moment towards the novel’s close where a donation of “872 Moidores”, a Portuguese gold coin, that goes unrecognized by the NER but it is emblematic of what the broader NER data shows us: that material wealth in the time of Robinson Crusoe was still in the process of being abstracted to currency.