Here are some thoughts from Sebastián following our last discussion:
Today in class we discussed how does the fact that A Journal of the Plague Year is a fiction affects our responses to the text. We also made an effort to categorize the piece; is it a proto-ethnography or historical novel?
I would like us to consider Defoe’s intentions when writing and publishing the novel. In this sense, it would be useful to consider that the book was published as a new plague outbreak takes place in France and that H.F. is keen on making remarks about public health policy.
With all this in mind, let us think about the following: is it a fictional account based on a historical event or a historical account in which fictional elements are introduced to enhance the writer’s argument?
An example: García Márquez’s The General in His Labyrinth
In 1989, Colombian novel laureate Gabriel García Márquez published a novel tracing the last days of general Simón Bolívar in Colombia, before death frustrated his attempts to travel to Europe in exile. The narration focuses on the general’s anxieties about the country’s future, offering a more human portrait of an often-mythicized figure. The novel faced huge criticism regarding its portrayal of Bolívar, to the extent that some critics deemed the account “profane”.
Is Defoe proposing a new version of the history of the Plague?