Date of Award

8-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

German

Major Professor

Chauncey J. Mellor

Committee Members

Carolyn R. Hodges, David E. Lee

Abstract

This thesis aims to investigate the traces of multicultural implications in Joachim Heinrich Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere 1779/80. On one level, Campe’s adaptation of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe appears to awaken or sustain potential colonial fantasies among its German readers. However, Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere does not follow colonial conventions, such as exhibited in Defoe, but instead depicts a society based much more on the concept of a common humanity shared by Europeans and Caribbean natives alike. It conceives of cooperation and exchange as a mutual gain for both parties. Robinson’s island functions as a kind of social testing ground offering opportunities for trial runs of Campe’s social-utopian concepts. In this way, the society Campe portrays offers an implicit critique of the colonial realities in his era as practiced by the European colonial powers. Thus, Robinson der Jüngere goes beyond the obvious pedagogical aim, inspired by Rousseau, to raise pious, self-sufficient and industrious citizens. Instead its underlying socio-political message deserves attention. In comparison with Defoe, Campe distances himself from practices of then-current colonial behavior, such as slavery and self-enrichment from exploiting natural resources. Among the indications that Campe was attempting to establish an ideal alternative to the colonialism of his era are his depictions of an amicable bond between Robinson and Freitag, the marriages of Europeans and natives and even the distinct wish of the Spaniards and Englishmen to remain in the ideal society Robinson had crafted on his island, rather than returning to Europe. The international success of Robinson der Jüngere suggests the lasting influence it had on generations of readers. In the analysis I present, Campe subliminally educates the listening children in the book and the reading public to become open-minded citizens of future societies.

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