Daniel Defoe, Grifting Fact

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

Jacky O'Connor


The integration of literary studies with technology allows for new discoveries within English studies. Databases such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Collection of Newspapers (BURNEY) enable researchers to identify nuanced distinctions between fact and fiction. By examining the sources made available in these collections Daniel DeFoe’s book A Journal Of A Plague Year becomes not only a construct of the 1665 London plague but a direct result of the media Defoe had access to in his lifetime. Scholars have long argued Defoe’s work is fiction without factual evidence. We further argue, elements in A Journal of A Plague Year represent the 1665 London Plague by correlating directly to articles written about the plague in Marseille in 1770. The result is an account that reports factual evidence in a fictitious time frame. Our research supports this thesis by providing the link between the novel and newspaper collections available on the ECCO/Burney databases.

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