Does Crusoe Shit in the Woods?

That’s the title of the paper I’m giving at SLSA ’13—and the paper is done, a full two months before the conference. That’s miraculous, for me. Usually I’m about 75% finished when I head to the airport, and still tweaking almost until the last minute. Not the best way to do it, I know.

As you might have guessed from the title, the paper is about where Robinson Crusoe shits. This is more important than you think it is: Crusoe is not just some castaway, he’s the “King and Lord” of his island, and he spends the entirety of his twenty-eight shipwrecked years turning his desert ( = uncultivated) island into a colony. He even leaves behind colonists! Two sets of them, who don’t get along, as recounted in the sequel!

Colonizing the island means imposing order on it: he fences in parcels of land, he grows grain, he husbands goats, he tends the wild grapevines, he builds houses (three of them, plus a converted cave). And he tells the reader about all this stuff, and everything else besides——except about where he shits. And why is that? Because he never shits, that’s why. And why doesn’t he shit? Because he’s the King, that’s why, and the King can’t shit. Shitting is for savages, not kings!

So that’s the teaser, and if it sounds intriguing, you can read the whole thing. Keep in mind that it was written to be read aloud: there are lots of dashes, and several premeditated digressions in square brackets (time and audience interest permitting). Feedback is most welcome, especially pointed questions (so that I’ll have answers for them prepared).

And the next time you shit into a flushing toilet, say a word of thanks.


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