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Volume :29 Issue : 114 2011      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

Constructing the Wild Arab in Daniel Defoes Captain Singleton (1720)

Auther : Khaled Al-Jenfawi

 

    This essay seeks to examine certain passages in Defoes novel Captain Singleton (1720) and to illustrate how the narrator Captain Bob attempts to maintain a stereotypical representation of Arabs ironically by constantly contrasting it with an imagined ideal European model. I hope to show that such a project seems to gradually lack legitimacy because Defoe relies on rhetorical devices rather than real historical facts. Contradictions within the usual Defoean discourse about non-Europeans in general, and of Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular rise throughout the novel. As I will argue later in this essay, the construction of the non-European especially the wild Arab is characterized by the Defeoan discourses rhetorical and ideological contradictions: Defoe insists on presenting this depiction/distortion of the real historical Arab within a European contemporary discourse, which did not necessarily view these desert dwellers in reductive terms. We might begin to approach this topic by first examining the interactions between Captain Singleton and the non-European Other in Africa, Madagascar and later in Arabia proper. 

    Next, I aim to deconstruct such negative constructions of wild Arabs by comparing/contrasting it with what this essay considers as a more positive eighteenth century reverence of the Noble Bedouins. For many eighteenth-century English and Europeans writers, the desert Bedouins (wild Arabs) represent the gentleman of the desert, a noticeably declining discourse in Europe by the 1720s.

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