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SurpriseThe Poetics of the Unexpected from Milton to Austen$
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Christopher R. Miller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453694

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453694.001.0001

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The Accidental Doctor

The Accidental Doctor

Physics and Metaphysics in Robinson Crusoe

(p.63) Chapter 3 The Accidental Doctor

Christopher R. Miller

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the poetics of surprise in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. It considers surprise in relation to bourgeois individualism and the rise of industrial capitalism, Puritan traditions of introspection and allegory, and European imperialism and its forms of exploitation and violence. It also discusses several emblematic and interrelated species of surprise: the gunshot or detonation of gunpowder; natural phenomena both dangerous (lightning, earthquakes) and benign (the growth and generation of plants and animal life); a single footprint in the sand and the subsequent arrival of a friendly stranger. Finally, it highlights the flaw in Crusoe's attempt at risk management as well as the perennial surprise of Crusoe's own strange—and self-estranging—thoughts.

Keywords:   surprise, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, capitalism, allegory, imperialism, violence, gunpowder, natural phenomena, risk management

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