This year marks the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” – a classic tale of a castaway who spends 28 years on a desert island – and the English & Philosophy Department at Missouri Southern State University will celebrate with a week of activities

Set for March 1-8, Robinson Crusoe Week will feature a variety of activities designed to highlight a celebrated novel that has never been out of print, says Dr. Amy Gates, assistant professor of English.

“(The novel) spawned tons of imitations and adaptations from the very beginning,” she says. “It used to be that if you had three books in your house, you had The Bible, you had Bunyon’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and you had ‘Robinson Crusoe.’

“Even if you haven’t read it, you’ve watched ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ you’ve seen ‘Cast Away’ or read any number of survival tales, all pulling from Defoe.”

Activities will range from film screenings, a pottery pit firing on the campus Oval, a writing contest and presentations that examine the novel in a modern context.

“‘Robinson Crusoe’ has a lot of adventure, which makes it a fun thing to build a week around,” says Gates. “But it’s also problematic. (Issues such as) slavery and colonialism complicate the narrative. We want to talk about those issues, not just paper over them.”

Robinson Crusoe Week follows 2018’s inaugural Literature Lives event, which celebrated Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” which was published in 1818.

Organizers are already planning for the next two years of Literature Lives celebrations, says Gates.

Robinson Crusoe Week Schedule

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public.

Friday, March 1

Release party for “bordertown”

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Spiva Library Quiet Room (Room 413). Activities mark the release of the annual creative arts publication. Several of the featured writers will read from their work. A prompt for the Desert Island Writing Contest will be released (at the event and on Facebook) around 12:45 p.m. There will be three categories for the contest – high-school students and younger; current MSSU students; and community (alumni, friends, faculty and staff). Entries will be due by 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3.

Sunday, March 3

“Crash Course on Crusoe”

3 p.m., Community Room West at Joplin Public Library, 1901 E. 20th St. The event will serve as an introduction to the basic narrative, big themes and strategic excerpts from the novel, and will include faculty members Dr. Zak Watson, Dr. Bill Kumbier, Dr. Cliff Toliver and Dr. Amy Gates.


Monday, March 4

“Robinson Crusoe in Context”

7 p.m. in Plaster Hall’s Cornell Auditorium. A panel of faculty members – including Dr. Jonathan Adongo (Economics), Dr. John Davenport (Geography), Dr. Jill Greer (Anthropology and Sociology) and Dr. Jason Willand (Plant Biology and Environmental Health) – will explore some of the facts behind Defoe’s fiction.

Tuesday, March 5

Goat petting

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the campus Oval. Students will have a chance to have a chance to get to better know the animals, which factor into Defoe’s novel.

Earthenware pottery making

1 to 3 p.m. on the Oval. Students and faculty from the Art Department will help participants try their hand at making pottery. Clay will be provided by Southern Clay.

Film double feature

“Robinson Crusoe” (1997) at 4 p.m., “Man Friday,” (1975) at 7 p.m., Bookhouse Cinema, 715 E. Broadway.

Wednesday, March 6

Scavenger hunt

8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Campus Activities Board will sponsor a “Robinson Crusoe”-themed coconut hunt for students.

Pottery pit firing and bonfire

Pottery work will begin at 4 p.m., with the bonfire at approximately 6 p.m., on the Oval.

Thursday, March 7

Keynote presentation

7 p.m., Cornell Auditorium. Dr. Shirley Tung, from Kansas State University, will present “‘These particulars over again’ – viz. Robinson Crusoe’s ‘double reflections’ and the Art of Eighteenth-Century Life Writing.” Her presentation will feature interactive audience participation with an exercise in manuscript transcription.

Pottery pick-up

7 to 9 p.m., Cornell Auditorium lobby.

Friday, March 8

Gala reception

6 p.m., North End Zone Facility. The event will include readings and the announcement of the writing contest winners.

Pottery pick-up

6 to 7:30 p.m., North End Zone facility.