Defoe’s fictions have attracted attention from literary historians, because they appeared among the first prose fictions in English. Arguments therefore often circle the question: were these the first ‘novels’ in English? Or, were they forerunners of the ‘novel’ which only developed later in the works of, say, Richardson and Fielding? Such debates can be enlightening, but will never be settled because opinions depend so much on the question of definition. What is a novel? Do we list Defoe’s characteristics and call them a ‘novel’, or list a ‘novel’s’ characteristics and seek them in Defoe?
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