Form plays a crucial role in establishing a relationship between history and individual consciousness in Daniel Defoe’s Colonel Jack (1722). Jack’s fictional world is structured by major historical events: from the War of the League of Augsburg in 1697 to the battle of Preston in 1715. Although Jack signals his desire to participate in these events—and to participate in them as history—he does not do so in any simple way, missing one battle entirely and failing to fight in another. This strange partial action is part of Defoe’s larger engagement with a question both philosophical and historiographical: how the individual’s experience is related to public history. The chronological structure of historical events in Colonel Jack shows history’s traditional form, but only in order to demonstrate that the individual’s story is never fully pulled into what we might consider history’s plot. Form marks off history as related to, but also as distinct from, Jack’s experience.


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pp. 227-245
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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