A journal of the plague year
Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel A Journal of the Plague Year is an interesting example of the double-voiced discourse that characterized the literature of the eighteenth century. The novel is at once concerned with both neoclassical ideals and sensibility. Throughout the text, the narrator, whom Defoe refers to only by the initials H.F., attempts to impose an interpretive framework of emotionally distant, empirical rationality upon the horror of the events unfolding during the plague year of 1664-1665. However, he is not wholly successful in excising sentimentality from his observations, and in this way, the text represents a kind of medium between the Augustan mode and the literature of sensibility.
The way that A Journal of the Plague Year bridges neoclassicism and sensibility is paralleled by its hybrid status as a work of literature. Although we would now refer to this type of novel as historical novel, Defoe was encroaching on virgin territory in his combination of factual history and book-length fiction, which was a newly emergent literary form during the eighteenth century. Much like he does in Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Defoe blurs the lines between fact and fiction in Plague Year, making it unclear whether the text is a novel or an actual historical document. This wavering between two forms of discourse underscores the paradoxical nature of much of eighteenth century literature.
Works by Daniel Defoe include the following:
- Moll Flanders
- Robinson Crusoe
- Colonel Jack