This chapter cannot attempt to survey the critical history of Defoe’s novels: we only have space for a sample. For an overview you need to go to Paul Baines’ excellent Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe/Moll Flanders; A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism.1 Instead, this chapter has a deliberate aim: to show that a range of different approaches and different interpretations exist, in order to encourage readers and students to develop your own ideas with confidence, and to be stimulated by debate. We make no pretence that the critics represented here are typical. They are only representative of critics in general, in that they hold different opinions from each other. We begin by noting how three twentieth-century novelists responded to Defoe, and with some remarks on Ian Watt’s hugely influential work, as a form of background. We will then sample six critical arguments in the form of summaries and extracts.
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