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A Biblical Enlightenment

One might compare the effects of listening to a Gospel passage read from the pulpit with reading the same passage at home for oneself.  In the first instance, the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high; in the second it seems to come from a silent voice that is within . . . . I think that the ‘deep penetration of new controls’ to all departments of life becomes more explicable when we note that printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain are more easily internalized.  . . . In so far as they were internalized by silent and solitary readers, the voice of individual conscience was strengthened.

–Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 428-9.

The above quote taken from Elizabeth Einstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change is portrayed as a critical approach through Daniel Defeo’s Robinson Crusoe, through the lens of a reader-response criticism.  The reader-response criticism “studies the interaction of reader with text, holding the text as incomplete until it is read.”  This draws a deeper connection between one’s outer surrounding and inner self.  A relationship is developed between the mind and what is tangible as a physical text, which is shown through the use of the Bible in the development of Robinson Crusoe; as he is a character whom develops a more enlightened and positive outlook of his surrounding and circumstances, by allowing the Biblical text penetrate into his mind, body, and soul.

Einstein demonstrates two versions in receiving a Gospel passage: one of being told of the interpretation of the text by another party, and the other of gaining a personal understanding of the text by oneself.  Defeo’s Robinson Crusoe reveals a man who follows his heart’s exploratory desire of setting off to sea, when told by his father not to do so.  Through Crusoe’s father’s interpretation of life, it is wiser for Crusoe to stay home and study law so that he may be able create a safe and modest life for himself.  The father’s advice for Crusoe’s life is seen as Einstein’s reference to “the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high;” as this is a form of receiving a text or in Crusoe’s case, advice on life; and although this may create an impact towards the receiver of the text or advice, it does not hold a personal interpretation and connection with the text or advice, which may perhaps serve more of an impact.  Crusoe’s father is seen as the priest, in that he serves as one manner in which Crusoe receives guidance- through his words of wisdom.

As the story progresses, Crusoe develops a ‘deep penetration of new controls’ in which he acquires a deeper understanding of the literary text of the Bible- of which he continues to implement in his own thoughts and way of life. As Crusoe is stuck alone on an island, he develops a personal understanding of the text of the Bible, which draws a greater impact on his life than the words of his Father, of which who could not form such an intertwined connection with.

This greater understanding of the text portrays as using a reader-response criticism towards the Bible.  He continues to apply a lifestyle of what was taught to himself through the Bible, in his the struggles he faces in his day to day life.  He finds a deeper understanding and appreciation towards the circumstances he undergoes, through the consummation of the texts from the Bible.  Crusoe states amidst such hopeless times, “…after I saw Barley grow there, in a Climate which I know was not proper for Corn, and especially that I knew not how it came there, it startled me strangely, and I began to suggest, that God had miraculously caus’d this Grain to grow without any help of Seed sown, and that it was so directed purely for my Sustenance on that wild miserable Place.”  (78)   Crusoe’s analysis of God’s deliverance in his time of struggle, vividly displays the deep penetration the Biblical text has over his mind and being.

There comes a point in Crusoe’s conquests, that he spends time in personal analysis of the positive and negative outcomes of his journey.  He states, “I have no Soul to speak to, or relieve me.”  Then he looks at this negative position he is left with, and finds a deeper purpose within it as he states: “But God wonderfully sent the Ship in near enough to the Shore, that I have gotten out so many necessary things as will either supply my Wants, or enable me to supply my self even as long as I live.” (66)  “Upon the whole, here was an undoubted Testimony, that there was scarce any Condition in the World so miserable, but there was something negative or something positive to be thankful for in it;” (67)

Crusoe carries his interpretation of the Bible as a portable text that is implemented in his thoughts and his actions.  This gives a deep impact of a textual content within the life those who internalize the overall message of the text.  Crusoe serves as a model of such reader-response criticism as he internalizes the Bible, in a manner in which it becomes a part of him, and lives within him and is portrayed through his thoughts and day to day to living.

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~ by renyvarughese on October 19, 2010.

One Response to “A Biblical Enlightenment”

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