Defoe and Fictional Time

Paul K. Alkon


“Alkon’s method produces shrewd observations about the texts at hand as well as about the critical ideas they generate. His account of the puzzling conclusion of Moll Flanders is the best I know. And his comparisons of timeschemes in different novels often open whole new perspectives.”
Modern Language Review

“Alkon is able to illuminate Defoe’s narrative techniques and to read the fictions with subtlety and originality. . . . Alkon has shown how thoroughly Defoe grasped a major aspect of narrative subject matter and technique, and for this everyone interested in Defoe and the novel is in his debt.”
Eighteenth Century Studies

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Defoe and Fictional Time shows Defoe’s relevance to issues now central to criticism of the novel; relationships between narrative time and clock time, the influence of time concepts shared by writers and their audience, and above all the questions of how fiction shapes the phenomenal time of reading. Paul K. Alkon offers first a study of time in Defoe’s fiction, with glances at Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne; and second a theoretical discussion of time in fiction. Arguing that eighteenth-century views of history account for the strange chronologies in Captain Singleton, Colonel Jack, Moll Flanders, and Roxana, Alkon explores Defoe’s innovative use of narrative sequences, frequency, spatial form, chronology, settings, tempo, and the reader’s cumulative memories of a text. Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year is the first portrayal of a public duration—passing time shared by an entire population during a crisis—ranking Defoe among the most creative writers who have explored the way in which fictional time may influence reading time.
Page count: 288 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $29.95

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Paul K. Alkon is Leo S. Bing Professor Emeritus of English and American Literature, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He is the author of five books including Origins of Futuristic Fiction (Georgia), Science Fiction before 1900, and Winston Churchill’s Imagination.