Robinsonade is a literary genre that takes its name from the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. The success of this novel spawned enough imitations that its name was used to define a genre, which is sometimes described simply as a "desert island story".

The word "robinsonade" was coined by the German writer Johann Gottfried Schnabel in the Preface of his work Die Insel Felsenburg (1731).

In the archetypical robinsonade, the protagonist is suddenly isolated from the comforts of civilization, usually shipwrecked or marooned on a secluded and uninhabited island. He must improvise the means of his survival from the limited resources at hand. Unlike Thomas More's Utopia and romantic works which depicted nature as idyllic, Crusoe made it unforgiving and sparse. The protagonist survives by his wits and the qualities of his cultural upbringing, which also enable him to prevail in conflicts with fellow castaways or over local peoples he may encounter.

Robinson Crusoe and "robinsonades" share plot elements with William Shakespeare's The Tempest, but the story emphasis and story message are markedly different.

Robinson Crusoe was influential in creating a colonialization mythology—as novelist James Joyce eloquently noted the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: "He is the true prototype of the British colonist…". Later works expanded on and explored this mythology.

Robinsonades were especially popular in Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sears List of Subject Headings, 18th ed., Joseph Miller, ed. (New York: The H. W. Wilson Co., 2004) recommends that librarians also catalog apocalyptic fantasies -- such as Cormac McCarthy's popular novel The Road (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), or even Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1959), as Robinsonades. Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index, 22d ed. (Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 2003), however, excepts "The Revelation of John" and other biblical apocalyptic passages from this cataloging rule.



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