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LBianchin's English first classtest
[author: Luca Bianchin - postdate: 2007-10-01]


In 1986 Cotzee wrote "Foe", a post modern rendering of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Since the title the reader can appreciate the comparison between Cotzee's title and the surname of the author of the architext. Moreover the title Foe sums up other different meanings, according to the typical "codes" of post modernism: analyzing the word "Foe" you can notice it is a short captivating term, so word works on the level of publicity. The word has also a relevant role at the level of storyline: one of characters is called "Foe" and Foe is also the enemy represented by the impossibility to communicate the substance of reality the protagonist has to face.

When you talk about the protagonist of the novel "Foe" you have to put into question the codes used by Defoe in the eighteenth century. From this point of view Cotzee's novel is gender-marked because the main character is a woman called Susan Barton and she is also the narrative voice of the novel; on the contrary Defoe used a male character as a narrator because he wanted to convey the myth of merchantilistic age about the man who is able to face nature and adverse events with his own forces. Cotzee uses a female character in order to give voice to marginalized categories: you can appreciate the same device if you analyse the function of Friday.

Both "Foe" and "Robinson Crusoe" use a narrative structure divided into chapters, but the difference is to be seen in the number of chapters. Foe has got four chapters, it starts "in medias res" and summarizes everything in only one chapter rather the whole storyline of Robinson Crusoe. Besides it uses a language that reminds the poetical use of language (For example, it uses in the first pages a lot of figures of speech); on the other side Daniel Defoe wrote a sort of chronicle, with a linear and consequential chain of events (in 46 chapters!).

When you compare two texts that of course don't belong to the same historical period you must consider the differences in the background. Of course the two text cannot rely on the same ideal reader: Robinson Crusoe isn't very demanding from the reader, the one who reads Robinson Crusoe needs only to know the historical background of the eighteenth century to appreciate the novel. The one who read "Foe", on the contrary cannot completely understand all the connotative levels of the novel, unless he is the same novelist. The ideal reader therefore expresses the post modern impossibility to communicate at all the levels of speech.