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Class Presentation


I’m an aspiring writer, so I’ll be posting stuff here every now and then–mostly fiction, probably. I love feedback, so if you have advice kindly give it in the comments!

This is the transcript for a presentation I gave in October. I wrote it in an hour, then walked to class and gave it.

The page numbers given are from The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century, which was the textbook.

I’m afraid I have nothing prepared for my presentation today, which was supposed to be on chapters four through six of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Cruesoe, considered by many scholars to be the first English novel ever written. This will initially seem irresponsible and lazy. I have here a document, however, that I pray will contradict these impressions. You see, I recorded my atrophied attempts to prepare this presentation in my personal diary, which I have brought with me today in its entirety. Upon hearing what the entries within recount, I am confident you will all understand why I have nothing to present to you.

April 16th, 1987

I was born onto an island today that some call Newfoundland. Upon arrival, my father remarked on my resemblance to E. T. from the movie E. T.

April 16th, 2010

My father’s words have haunted me these twenty-three years.

Sepetember 14th, 2010

I am studying English literature now, at a place called MUN. It is a desolate place. This semester I am taking a course called English 4040. Today our professor presented us with a number of topics upon which we are to present at a later date. I chose to present on Robinson Cruesoe. Later, I decided to get an early start on my presentation. I reckoned a good place to start would be any biographical information I could locate on the author, Daniel Defoe. I located this information by opening The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century to page 242.

Daniel Defoe was something of a disturber of fecal matter in his day. He switched his political allegiance several times throughout his life, which some claim is evidence of “a lack of principled politics.” Others “argued his ability to take on the voice of another with conviction allowed him to play against both Whig and Tory extremes throughout the course of his party employment, and that his aim had generally been to advocate a reasonable and moderate course between partisan extremes.” That seems a bit far-fetched to me, but who am I to say? Defoe started life with the surname ‘Foe,’ but later changed it to ‘Defoe,’ perhaps worried that ‘Foe’ sounded a bit too nefarious. Anyway. It didn’t do him any good. He still made plenty of enemies, and in 1731 he died while in hiding to avoid debtor’s prison. He had a good run, though. He was by turns a wholesaler of wine, tobacco, textiles and other commodities, a Whig, a Tory, an author, a secret agent, a prisoner, a pamphleteer, and a broad-spectrum badass.

September 16th, 2010

Today is Friday. I am staying home all tonight and probably tomorrow night as well to think about my English 4040 presentation. I want it to be fresh and original but also informative however I cannot think of a single idea. I mean, if this was an essay it would be easy–I would simply regurgitate what the professor said in class and get a C minus. But we haven’t discussed Robinson Cruesoe in class yet. I yearn for an imagination.

Earlier I was hungry, so “I went to the bread room and filled my pockets with biscuit, and ate it as I went about other things, for I had no time to lose. I also found some rum.”

September 17th, 2010

Today is Saturday. I still can’t think of anything. I decided to actually read the chapters, but this didn’t help either. I’m starting to panic. My presentation date is only 18 days away.

September 20th, 2010

We had class today. I surreptitiously glanced around at my classmates and I couldn’t stop thinking about what a moron they would soon suppose me to be. I thought about the failing mark I would get at the end of the semester. “This forced tears to my eyes,” much like they did to those of Robinson Cruesoe when he realized that if everyone in the crew had stayed on the boat they would have all made it safely onto the island since the boat had washed up more or less intact onto the shore.

September 21st, 2010

Sometimes charts help me to think so today I drew up a chart, much like Robinson Cruesoe did when he sought to better understand his circumstances, which involved being deserted on an island. On one side of the chart I wrote all the evil thing pertaining to having to do this presentation. On the other side, I wrote the good things.

EVIL: This sucks. GOOD: It will build character. EVIL: What am I going to do with an English degree anyway? GOOD: It will help me communicate more effectively with customers when they come to the counter at Extreme Pita, where I work, and where I probably will work for the rest of my life. EVIL: I don’t think we will ever achieve world peace here on Earth. Not ever. GOOD: That’s okay. War is good for the economy.

September 25th, 2010

Before today, Tuesday was the last time I looked at the project. I have begun to despair. In fact, I think we should change ‘Newfoundland’ to ‘The Island of Despair,’ just like Cruesoe does on page 258. In my despair, today I made the long drive to Northern Bay Sands, alone, to reflect on my situation. Then I realized that I hadn’t brought anything with me: “I had neither food, house, clothes, weapon…and, in despair of any relief, saw nothing but death before me, either that I should be devoured by wild beasts, murdered by savages, or starved to death for want of food.” Then I realized that’s exactly how Robinson Cruesoe felt when he first washed up on the island. In fact, I was beginning to see several such curious parallels.

Anyway. After I arrived in Northern Bay Sands I found myself “looking out upon the sea, which was just before me, and very calm and smooth.” This is rather like Cruesoe does on page 268. I asked myself, “What is this earth and sea, of which I have seen so much? Whence is it produced? And what am I, and all the other creatures wild and tame, human and brutal? Whence are we? Sure we are all made by some secret power, who formed the earth and sea, the air and sky. And who is that? Then it followed most naturally, it is God that has made all these things, he guides and governs them all, and all things that concern them; for the power that could make all things must certainly have power to guide and direct them. If so, nothing can happen in the great circuit of his works, either without his knowledge of appointment.”

At this, I felt a profound calm settle upon me. I had someone to blame for my inability to come up with anything resembling an idea for my English 4040 presentation. I would blame God.

October 4th, 2010

I am supposed to present tomorrow, and I have nothing. It’s 10 PM, which is way past the bedtime enforced by my mother. This…is a disaster.

Earlier I remembered how good I felt nine days ago when I blamed God for my woes, and I began to do so again in earnest. “Why has God done this to me?” I asked, much like Robinson Cruesoe did when he was going through some stuff. “‘What have I done to be thus used?’ My conscience presently checked me in that inquiry, as if I had blasphemed, and me thought it spoke to me like a voice: ‘Wretch! Dost thou ask what thou hast done? Look back upon a dreadful misspent life, and ask thyself what thou hast not done? Why wert thou not drowned in Yarmouth Roads; killed in the fight when the ship was taken by the Sallee Man-of-War; devoured by the wild beasts on the coast of Africa; or drowned here, when all the crew perished but thyself? Dost thou ask, what have I done?'”

So my conscience more or less put me right in my place.

I am going to bed now.

October 5th, 2010

It is 2:13 PM, an unholy thirteen minutes after the class began in which I am to present. I don’t even know if the professor will let me present now that I haven’t even shown up for class on time. Just like Robinson Cruesoe, “all possibility of deliverance from this condition seem[s] to be entirely taken from me.”

All is lost.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Candice Pinsent permalink
    01/06/2011 7:21 PM


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