In this essay, the author argues that chapbook editions of Robinson Crusoe should be viewed not simply as impoverished abridgments of Defoe's novel, but as striking examples of the popular “appropriation” of an elite text by plebeian readers. The ruthless editorial decisions required to reduce a 400-page novel to a 24-page chapbook with woodcut illustrations may appear haphazard at times, omitting such vital scenes as Crusoe's discovery of the footprint, for instance, but actually express the preferences, interests, and reading practices of common readers. Popular reading often challenges and confounds the aesthetic and narrative expectations of experienced readers. Similarly, popular chapbook editions of Robinson Crusoe contest, dispute, and sometimes reject the ideological underpinnings of their elite source text.

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