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Karolina Katsika

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Permeability, sound, and space in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year

Katherine Williams

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  • 1 Neil Cummins, Kelly Morgan, and Cormac O Grada, « Living Standards and Plague in London, 1560-1665  (...)

1In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, killing upwards of a quarter of the population. At the time, London was a metropolis of nearly half-a-million inhabitants. It was by far the largest and most important city in England, a thriving trade and financial center, blessed by a deep-water port and the proximity of the royal Court. As might be expected, along with London’s commercial success came social and economic divisions. By the mid-17th century, the wealthy had gravitated to central parishes well within the city walls and to parishes west towards Westminster and the Court. The poor tended to reside in parishes bordering the Thames and alongside the edges of the city walls and were increasingly pushed beyond the walls to the east and north. The infection generally tracked the geographical division of rich and poor: death rates in poorer parishes were far higher than in wealthier parishes1.

  • 2 Londoners generally believed the plague to have been spread by the wind or by physical contact with (...)

2The Great Plague divided Londoners along another spatial line. Adopting a time-honored plague-containment measure, city officials ordered that the house of any plague victim be shut up along with all of its inhabitants, whether they were infected or not2. Whole families were thus quarantined and incarcerated within their living space. Doors and windows on lower floors were locked and boarded up, a red cross was painted on the front door, and watchmen guarded the house day and night to prevent escape.

  • 3 Using the reports of these « searchers », officials shut houses and drew up weekly « Bills of Morta (...)

3Of course, this containment measure was neither practical nor foolproof. Inevitably, houses were never completely sealed off. Families tried to hide infected members from the authorities to avoid being shut in. Those who were confined devised methods of escape, often by night, using subterfuge to evade the watchman. Sequestered houses were officially subject to intrusion by physicians and nurses, in addition to women « searchers » who were required to identify infected individuals and to certify the cause of death3. It was impossible to enforce an absolute spatial division between the afflicted and the healthy. The boundaries were too leaky.

  • 4 From the title page of the 1722 edition. See Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, ed. Paula (...)

4The practice of shutting « plague » houses is hotly debated in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, which (like the earlier Robinson Crusoe) contemplates what it means to live in spatial and geographical isolation. Published in 1722, the Journal purports to be an authentic, contemporary account of the Great Plague written by a middle-class saddler identified as « H.F. » who « continued all the while in London »4. H.F., a successful and energetic businessman, is transformed by the plague into a collector of statistics, rumors, social behaviors, official decrees, medical opinions, religious pronouncements, and the spiritual musings of his own psyche. His restlessness turns him into a solitary wanderer of his native city. The plague has halted all trade and emptied the streets of people. Yet H.F. is unable to remain within the safety of his home. Time after time, he ventures out into the newly defined architecture of the plague, where he finds deserted alleys and shuttered houses in place of London’s normal bustling streetscapes.

5On his walks, H.F. often references the two architectural elements that form the openings between external and internal: doors, which are primarily associated with entry and exit, and windows, which are primarily associated with ventilation and lighting. Of these two elements, doors are the typical means by which we enter and leave architecture. Indeed, doors often connote the « liminal » because they signal « thresholds » or boundaries. In H.F.’s plague-ridden London, however, where doors are boarded up and plague houses turned into prisons, windows take the place of doors. Only through windows can the inhabitants of a shut-up house experience what lies outside, and only through windows can the outside world experience what lies within the house. Windows allow inhabitants to communicate with the outside world, receive provisions, hear the tolling of church bells, lower their dead to waiting carts, escape in the night, and even commit suicide. Thus, in H.F.’s London, windows take the place of doors and become the thresholds of human experience, the « liminal » mediating elements between those who are still healthy and those who have been touched by the infection.

  • 5 Barry Blessner and Linda-Ruth Salter, Spaces Speak, Are you Listening?, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2009, (...)
  • 6 Ibid., p. 26.

6In normal usage, windows are both limited and limiting. Whereas doors permit the easy passage of the physical body and thus join together outside and inside, windows do not offer more than the passage of sense phenomena and, by extension, the play of imagination. Usually, windows are thought of as bridging visual space, that is, between interior and exterior spaces and the visual perceptions of those inside the dwelling and those outside. However, windows affect aural space, as well, especially when they are open. Thus, open windows can be defined as « multisensory acoustic structures »5 that join together what are normally separate spaces into a « single arena »6.

  • 7 In this total, I include three mentions of « casements », one of which occurs in the passage cited. (...)
  • 8 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 69.

7Of the 45 references to windows7 in the Journal, six occur within a passage of some 350 words located about one-third of the way through the book. The passage describes the narrator’s brief walk from his own house in Aldgate to his brother’s house in Coleman’s Street by way of narrow lanes called Token-House-Yard and Bell-Alley. The narrator, identified only by the initials H.F., has remained in London, unlike the vast majority of wealthy Londoners, who, like H.F.’s brother, have left for the safety of the countryside. London has been transformed by the plague: the streets are silent; the houses of the rich are empty; the houses of plague-infected victims and their families are locked and guarded. H.F. knows that wherever he walks, he will see « dismal Scenes » and hear the « terrible Shrieks… of women » incarcerated behind « their Chamber Windows »8.

  • 9 John Bender, Imagining the Penitentiary, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Print, p. 27-2 (...)
  • 10 Ibid., p. 64.

8To be clear, my appropriation of the term « liminal » in this article differs from that of John Bender, whose study of 18th century fiction and the penitentiary is the first to associate Defoe’s Journal with the idea of the liminal. For, Bender, the word « liminal » describes the ambiguous, transitional space of the old-world prison, through which the condemned passes and is transformed. In his use of the term, Bender adopts the traditional « rite of passage » model theorized by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner: the liminal is both a physical in-between space and the in-between time spent during a rite of passage9. The in-between nature of the old-style prison is also descriptive of the Journal itself, given that Defoe wrote it during a time of what Bender calls an « epoch-making revision » in attitudes about incarceration10. In other words, the Journal reflects the transitional stage between the old-world « liminal » prison and the emerging phenomenon of the « panopticon » penitentiary.

  • 11 Manuel Aguirre, « The Lure of the Lumen: An Introduction to the Concept, Uses, and Problems of Limi (...)

9My use of the term « liminal » depends less on the traditional meaning of « transitional stage » and more on the idea of the liminal as « threshold » or, in the vocabulary of Manuel Aguirre, « interface »11. In short, the windows of shut up houses are « liminal » in that they represent interfaces between two cultures: a « feminized » pre-modern and oral culture (the interior of plague-infected houses) and a « masculinized » modern and visual culture (the exterior of those houses and especially the streets that H.F. walks through). The windows of the Token-House episode allow these two cultures to intersect.

10In my analysis of this episode, I would like to offer three propositions about the interplay among windows, sounds, and the narrator’s sense of hearing. First, by its nature, sound (e.g., the sound of words and non-verbal vocalization) traveling through the window demonstrates the permeability of even strictly observed carceral space. Second, both orality and aural sensation are necessary components of the narrator’s written expression, despite an implied pressure to find and present visual evidence and to obviate oral culture. Third, orality and aural experience complicate and qualify H.F.’s (and Defoe’s) diffident relationship with the irrational. I will elaborate on these propositions in due course.

  • 12 Paula McDowell, « Defoe and the Contagion of the Oral: Modeling Media Shift in A Journal of the Pla (...)
  • 13 Ibid., p. 103.

11First, though, I should note that my interest in orality builds upon the argument made by Paula McDowell in her study of the Journal and media. McDowell argues that a fundamental current of modernity pervades the Journal, one which opposes a pre-modern, feminized « oral » tradition with the more authoritative, masculinized « print » tradition12 that characterizes Defoe’s time. In McDowell’s view, H.F.’s attempts to erase one media (the oral) and replace it with another (print) do not fully succeed. Orality is « phoenixlike » in its ability to reappear in H.F.’s narration. It « is never really displaced… »13.

12Similarly, I believe, we can find a very powerful, authoritative, and resilient orality in the scenes of the Token-House episode and through the windows in Token-House-Yard and nearby Bell-Alley. Indeed, although H.F. is committing his memories of the plague year to writing, I would argue that he deliberately and artfully integrates examples of orality in the Token-House episode in his efforts to convince the reader of the horrors of the plague. In other words, H.F. subsumes the feminized orality of the Token-House episode rather than erases it, and he uses orality to authenticate his written narrative.

  • 14 Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Air’s Appearance: Literary Atmosphere in British Fiction, 1660- 1794, Chicag (...)

13Before I attempt further analysis of the episode, some background on both the book and its historical context is in order. The Journal was written in 1721, some fifty-six years after the London plague that was its subject. For the next half century, the Journal succeeded in masquerading as nonfictional memoire, until it was pointed out that Defoe had been no more than five years old when the plague visited London. The Journal was then recognized as a work of fiction – in fact, a novel, albeit a novel in an unusual form. To 21st century readers, the Journal seems almost postmodern: it mixes genres, incurporates historical documentation, turns the norms of narrative structure inside out, and presents a nearly anonymous narrator who is so elusive as to have moved at least one critic to liken him to a ghost14.

  • 15 Paula Backschieder considers some elements of the Journal to « propaganda » (x) for certain steps t (...)

14 What prompted Defoe to write the Journal was the proximate threat to London of another plague visitation. In 1720, in what was to be the one of the last major outbreaks of the bubonic plague, an estimated 100,000 people died in and around the port city of Marseilles. The consequence of this outbreak was terror among the populace of Marseilles, among the provincial government of Provence, and among the citizens of other port cities, not the least of which was London. Defoe’s novel was only one example of an outpouring of plague literature during the Marseilles plague. Like much plague writing, one ostensible purpose of the Journal was to provide guidance in the face of what many believed would be the inevitable spread of the Marseilles plague to London and from there to the rest of England15.

15The Journal encompasses the plague year from its earliest manifestations in the winter of 1664 through the early summer of 1666. At its height, in September 1665, the official death toll was 7000 deaths per week, although the true count was probably much higher. By the late winter of 1666, the plague had abated sufficiently so the King and his court felt confident enough to return to the city. By the summer of 1666, only a few plague cases were reported. Londoners must have rejoiced in their good fortune. But one more calamity awaited the city. Early in the morning of September 2, a fire started in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. It raged for nearly four days, destroying much of the inner City of London and changing its architectural face forever.

  • 16 The 1666 Act for Rebuilding forbade upper story « jetties » or windows that protruded beyond the bu (...)

16The Journal is written in the form of a memoire, and thus we understand that H.F. is looking back and remembering his experiences in London as it was before the fire. Yet the streets that are described in the novel must still have been quite familiar to Londoners of the early 1720s and to Defoe. Despite post-fire regulations for new construction, much of greater London remained as it had been before the fire. Defoe grew up in the area of Coleman Street and would have known both Token-House-Yard and Bell-Alley in their reconstructed states. However, close by was the boundary of the fire, and beyond that boundary were winding, narrow alleyways and courtyards as yet untouched by the new codes. There, in the older parts of London, Defoe would have experienced a streetscape similar to that of the pre-fire Token-House-Yard area, with upper story « jetties » or overhangs, usually with windows, protruding beyond the building’s foundations, often leaving only a few feet between the highest stories of opposing buildings and virtually no view of the sky from the street below. An upper-story window might open to within feet of a window across the street16.

  • 17 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 47.
  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 190.

17As I have noted, windows were a weak link in the plan to isolate the contagion by shutting up houses. My first proposition, as noted above, is that windows render the carceral space of plague-ridden London permeable. Where the doors of plague houses are boarded up and guarded by watchmen, windows offer a clandestine way out. H.F. reports many successful escapes, including one that occurred in the Coleman Street area near the Token-House-Yard, where the « abundance of Alleys » leading to hidden courtyards allowed the members of one family to climb out a back window and flee through an alley while the watchmen guarded their front door17. To be sure, the space of plague-ridden London represents Jeremy Bentham’s worst nightmare. As H.F. points out, « every Prison, as we may call it, had but one Jaylor; and he had the whole House to Guard… »18. Windows are also significant because their proximity to other windows across narrow passageways facilitates communication among the incarcerated. This architectural element of the London streetscape figures in a scene near the end of the novel, when Londoners celebrate the first significant decline in the death toll. In H.F.’s words, « Where the Streets were not too broad, [people]… would open their Windows and call from one House to another, and ask’d how they did, and if they had heard the good News… »19. Likewise, the sounds that emerge from windows in the Token-House episode demonstrate H.F.’s repeated assertion that no house can be closed off entirely.

  • 20 Robert James Merrett, Daniel Defoe, Contrarian, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2013, Print, (...)
  • 21 Simon Varey, « Space and the Eighteenth-Century English Novel », Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Ce (...)
  • 22 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 86.

18The Token-House episode also illustrates the importance of H.F.’s sense of hearing. This is my second proposition. Although H.F. takes great pains to include information (if not visual detail) about visible London, with its street markers and architecture, he pays close attention to audible London, with its multiple sounds. Critics generally agree that Defoe’s fiction eschews evocative visual detail (as distinct from visual information). The Journal, however, offers instances of striking aural detail. Robert James Merrett calls H.F. an « aural critic » whose « aural imagination » is associated with « synesthesia »20. Simon Varey, while arguing that Defoe treats urban space as the locus of social and political interaction – that is, as an idea rather than as a sensual, material cityscape – points to the sound detail in the Token-House passage as an aberration in Defoe’s usually inactive London21. Certainly in the Token-House episode and elsewhere, H.F. recounts the terrible cries of the victims and, in one instance, implores the reader to « hear » the plague: « I wish I could repeat the very Sound of those Groans and of those Exclamations that I heard from some of the poor dying Creatures… and that I could make him that reads this hear, as I imagine I now hear them, for the Sound seems still to Ring in my Ears »22.

  • 23 Casey O’Callaghan, Sounds: A Philosophical History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, Print, p (...)
  • 24 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 52.
  • 25 Ibid., p. 54.
  • 26 Ibid., p. 55.
  • 27 See Ilse Vickers on Defoe’s adherence to Baconian empiricism and Jenny McKay on The Storm, Defoe’s (...)
  • 28 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 68 [my emphasis].

19Again and again, H.F. returns to the problem of how to convert what he perceives into credible and persuasive description. Implied in this problem is a question: which of our senses leads us to trustworthy evidence? As do most of us in the modern age, H.F. seems to succumb to what Casey O’Callaghan, in Sounds: A Philosophical History, calls the « tyranny of the visual » – that is, the human tendency to consider all « perceptual experience » through the prism of our sense of sight and the tendency to use « visuocentric » words like « appearance, scene, image, observe » to record experiences23. Above all, H.F. is perpetually skeptical of the rumors and stories he hears swirling about the city, preferring instead the evidence of his own eyes. In September, he visits the plague pit in his parish because he can « no longer resist [his] Curiosity of seeing it »24. Before describing his entry into the pit area, he remembers thinking that the view « might be an instructing sight », to which the sexton answers, « Tis a speaking Sight… and has a Voice with it, and a loud one, to call us to Repentance »25. This « Sight… almost overwhelm’d me »26, writes H.F. as he leaves the pit. For Defoe, who is often called the father of modern journalism, an eyewitness account would be the most reliable evidence27. So it is no surprise that in the paragraph immediately preceding the Token-House episode, H.F. at first seems wedded to « visuocentric » language. He explains that during his regular walks to his brother’s house in Coleman Street, he witnessed « many dismal Scenes » that took place « before [his] Eyes »28. In these few words, H.F. seems to declare his allegiance to the visual. Yet the evidence he provides in the Token-House episode is almost wholly audible.

20As H.F. enters Token-House-Yard, he is immediately alerted to the opening of the window by means of the loud sound it makes. Included in the following quote is one of the most memorable phrases of the novel:

  • 29 Ibid., p. 69.

Passing through Token-House-Yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a Casement violently opened just over my head, and a Woman gave three frightful Screeches, and then cry’d, Oh! Death, Death, Death! in a most inimitable Tone, and which struck me with Horror and a Chilness in my very Blood. There was no Body to be seen in the whole Street, neither did any other Window open…29.

21H.F. describes the sounds in rapid order: first, the mechanical sound of the window opening; second, the inarticulate, yet meaningful sound of the three frightful screeches; third, the articulate and haunting cry of « Death » repeated three times. The particularity of the scene revolves around sound even more than language. The woman has opened a window to cry out; the surrounding windows remain closed.

  • 30 Mark M. Smith, Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History, Berke (...)

22The silence of this scene amplifies the sound: the window, like the flare of a horn, directs the sound waves outward, and the sound is juxtaposed against an empty soundscape. This stark contrast is almost impossible to find within the busy, varied, and textured visual dimension: even a single object, like a door or a window, has multiple aspects, parts, dimensions, perspectives, and materials. Defoe’s use of this intense aural experience suggests that even as print is becoming increasingly important, sound (including orality) and hearing retain a special power, as Mark M. Smith argues in his work on the history of the senses30.

23I now turn to my third proposition – that the Token-House episode illustrates the tension between the irrational, represented by the oral, and the rational, represented by the printed form of H.F.’s journal and by the fact-based material drawn from official proclamations like the Bills of Mortality, excerpts of which H.F. presents to the reader in the form of tables and charts. Throughout the Journal, H.F. searches for modern forms of evidence that, along with his written account, will bring reason and logic to bear upon a future plague. Yet in the narrow Token-House-Yard, below jetties and open windows, this aspiring rationalist experiences a moment of architectural uncanny. The window above him hides the source of the cry and of the dreadful words « Death, Death, Death! » The voice can be experienced, but the source is invisible. Unable to see this source or her physical context, H.F. cannot offer us visual detail or reasoned explanation. What has gone on inside the room from which the woman cries? Who is present? How might a view of the scene have explained the cause of the repeated words? H.F. and the reader can only wonder.

  • 31 O’Callaghan does not endorse the idea that sounds are « ethereal »: indeed, his philosophical proje (...)
  • 32 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 87.

24Sounds have often been associated with « mysterious, ethereal, and otherwise questionable items of sense », according to O’Callaghan31. Sound does not seem to belong to the world of objects, nor to the rational, visible world. Equally absent from the world of objects is silence. Elsewhere in the Journal, H.F. alludes to the unnatural « Silence in the Streets »32 of plague-ridden London, normally a loud, bustling center of commerce and noise. Against this silence, any sound is startling, strange, and extraordinary.

25Here, we should pause to distinguish « aurality » from « orality ». Paula McDowell argues that H.F. attempts to discredit the feminized orality of pre-print London – that is, the era of « rumor » and oral report – and valorizes the masculine world of print. McDowell’s primary evidence is the absence of any reference to the actual sources of the statistics that made up the Bills of Mortality: that is, the illiterate, ubiquitous female searchers who were charged with inspecting houses and reporting all plague-related deaths. By eliminating any mention of the female searchers, H.F.’s account erases their feminized « orality » and foregrounds print sources. Similarly, H.F. is almost obsessively anxious about the prevalence of rumor in the city, upon which he is dependent for information, but which he consistently doubts.

  • 33 Ibid., p. 69, 141, 158.
  • 34 I am suggesting a concept of orality that John Bender finds in Goethe’s « lyric texts » which « red (...)

26The Token-House episode treats « orality » and « evidence » in a very different way. H.F. can and does erase the testimony of the searchers, which for him is both second-hand and, in terms of modern, scientific ideology, suspect. But he does not or cannot erase the evidence of his own ears, the very sounds that emerge from the windows. Periodically, H.F. calls the horror of the plague « impossible to describe »33, yet he strives to make the plague experience intelligible to the reader. In the Token-House episode, this is accomplished through the mediation of the window, which allows H.F. to translate the inarticulate cries and the first-hand announcements of women speaking from within the domestic sphere into his own evidence – that is, he subsumes the women’s utterances into his aural experience and uses that experience as a rhetorical strategy34.

27The second scene of the Token-House episode affirms both this transformation of the oral into the aural and the utility of windows in Defoe’s creation of narrative space. H.F. continues his walk past Token-House-Yard and into the adjacent Bell-Alley. Again, the scene plays out as if in accord with the classical unities of drama, where death occurs off-stage and cries escape from windows above the line of sight:

  • 35 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 69.

Just in Bell-Alley, on the right Hand of the Passage, there was a more terrible Cry than that… I could hear Women and Children run skreaming about the Rooms like distracted, when a Garret Window opened, and somebody from a Window on the other side the Alley, call’d and asked, What is the matter? upon which, from the first Window, it was answered, Oh Lord, my Old Master has hang’d himself! The other asked again, Is he quite dead? and the first answer’d, Ay, ay, quite dead; quite dead and cold !35

  • 36 Ibid., p. 69.

28In this second scene, as well, windows mediate H.F.’s evidence. Sounds provide an approximate location ( « on the Right Hand of the Passage ») and a general identification of the players ( « Women and Children »). But the voices are disembodied and anonymous. The window has limited H.F.’s ability to identify them. This anonymity suits H.F.’s purpose – that is, his wish to exemplify the « dreadful Cases [that] happened in particular Families every Day »36. With the word « cases », Defoe suggests a kind of evidence from which the personal has been erased. The oral testimonies of these anonymous women are the stuff of modern analysis – cases, with names removed, to be written up and studied.

29Yet the transformation into « case-studies » is not at all absolute, nor would H.F. wish it to be. As he incorporates the testimony of these women into his memoire, he cannot erase the sound of their voices. Shut up in their houses, behind windows that supply the only means of communicating, provisioning, even ridding households of their dead, the inhabitants of plague-infested London seem like apparitions to H.F. They inhabit no space that can be seen. But they can be heard. As the Token-House episode suggests, the sound that escapes through windows is the narrator’s only access to what lies beyond his sight. Windows both separate and connect the rational, transparent exterior space of the narrator and the invisible, forbidden, interior space of the infected houses.

  • 37 Ibid., p. 191.

30Thus we return to the question of where H.F. can be located in the historical and ideological transformation from the pre-modern world of orality and belief into modern textuality and skepticism. H.F. spends much of the novel analyzing and disputing evidence (even finding fault with the written « objective » evidence of the Bills of Mortality), yet he continually offers the reader just such print-oriented, modern evidence. Yet in the Token-House episode and elsewhere, he is drawn back into the pre-modern world by the expressiveness of oral language and sound. On the one hand, he advocates a rational, modernized, and print-oriented world where reason prevails. On the other hand, desperate to convey the horror of the plague to his reader, he summons as testimony the cries of women through open windows. In the end, H.F. acknowledges « that no Account could be given » for the plague’s cessation other than the « secret invisible Hand » of God37. H.F. is unable to banish the irrational, just as science and reason are unable to banish the plague.

Bibliographie

Works Cited

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Blessner Barry, and Salter Linda-Ruth, Spaces Speak, Are you Listening? Cambridge, MIT Press, 2009, Print.

Bender John, Ends of Enlightenment, Redwood City, Stanford University Press, 2012, Print.

— Imagining the Penitentiary, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Print.

Cummins Neil, Morgan Kelly, and Cormac O Grada, « Living Standards and Plague in London, 1560-1665 », in The Economic History Review, 4 Mar. 2015 (Early View), Web. 25 May 2015.

Defoe, Daniel, A Journal of the Plague Year, Ed. Paula R. Backscheider, New York, Norton, 1992, Print.

Leasor James, The Plague and the Fire, London, House of Stratus, 2001, Print.

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McDowell Paula, « Defoe and the Contagion of the Oral: Modeling Media Shift in A Journal of the Plague Year » in PMLA, Vol. 121, n° 1 (Jan., 2006), 87-106. Web. 29 Sep. 2014.

McKay Jenny, « Defoe’s The Storm as a Model for Contemporary Reporting », in The Journalistic Imagination, Literary Journalists from Defoe to Capote and Carter, ed. Richard Kemble and Sharon Wheeler, Abingdon/New York, Routledge, 2007, Print.

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Notes

1 Neil Cummins, Kelly Morgan, and Cormac O Grada, « Living Standards and Plague in London, 1560-1665 », in The Economic History Review, 4 Mar. 2015, Early View, Web. 25 May 2015.

2 Londoners generally believed the plague to have been spread by the wind or by physical contact with the sufferer. The true agent of infection, the Yersinia pestis bacterium, was carried by fleas usually found on rodents. While contagion might occur by direct contact with an infected person, the bubonic plague typically results from the bite of an infected flea.

3 Using the reports of these « searchers », officials shut houses and drew up weekly « Bills of Mortality » (James Leasor, The Plague and The Fire, London, House of Stratus, 2001, Print, p. 16-17).

4 From the title page of the 1722 edition. See Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, ed. Paula Backschieder. All quotations are from this edition.

5 Barry Blessner and Linda-Ruth Salter, Spaces Speak, Are you Listening?, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2009, Print, p. 65.

6 Ibid., p. 26.

7 In this total, I include three mentions of « casements », one of which occurs in the passage cited. There are two mentions of « shutter (s) » in conjunction with windows. Additional references to architectural details populate the Journal, the most frequent being « door (s) » with 82 mentions.

8 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 69.

9 John Bender, Imagining the Penitentiary, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Print, p. 27-28.

10 Ibid., p. 64.

11 Manuel Aguirre, « The Lure of the Lumen: An Introduction to the Concept, Uses, and Problems of Liminality? », in Trellis Papers, Gateway Press, 2006, Web. 25 November 2015, p. 9.

12 Paula McDowell, « Defoe and the Contagion of the Oral: Modeling Media Shift in A Journal of the Plague Year », PMLA, Vol. 121, n° 1, Jan., 2006, Web. 29 Sep. 2014, p. 97.

13 Ibid., p. 103.

14 Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Air’s Appearance: Literary Atmosphere in British Fiction, 1660- 1794, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2012, Print, p. 128.

15 Paula Backschieder considers some elements of the Journal to « propaganda » (x) for certain steps that city officials were expected to take once the plague reached London.

16 The 1666 Act for Rebuilding forbade upper story « jetties » or windows that protruded beyond the building’s foundations for all new building within the circumference of the devastation.

17 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 47.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid., p. 190.

20 Robert James Merrett, Daniel Defoe, Contrarian, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2013, Print, p. 271-272.

21 Simon Varey, « Space and the Eighteenth-Century English Novel », Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Throught, Cambridge University Press, 1990, Print, p. 140.

22 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 86.

23 Casey O’Callaghan, Sounds: A Philosophical History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, Print, p. 1-3.

24 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 52.

25 Ibid., p. 54.

26 Ibid., p. 55.

27 See Ilse Vickers on Defoe’s adherence to Baconian empiricism and Jenny McKay on The Storm, Defoe’s pioneering example of investigative, reporter-as-eyewitness journalism.

28 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 68 [my emphasis].

29 Ibid., p. 69.

30 Mark M. Smith, Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007, Print, p. 48.

31 O’Callaghan does not endorse the idea that sounds are « ethereal »: indeed, his philosophical project aims to debunk the « visuocentric » dismissal of sounds as « unreal » or as mere « experience ». That said, he acknowledges that that sounds are « independent from ordinary material objects » and that, especially within a culture that values visual perception over aural, sounds may therefore feel mysterious and detached from the world (Casey O’Callaghan, Sounds: A Philosophical History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, Print, p. 6).

32 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 87.

33 Ibid., p. 69, 141, 158.

34 I am suggesting a concept of orality that John Bender finds in Goethe’s « lyric texts » which « redefine orality as the inner voice of emotion rather than as public-oriented oratorical communication » (John Bender, Ends of Enlightenment, Redwood City, Stanford University Press, 2012, Print, p. 219). Bender might disagree with my association of orality and emotion in the Journal, given what he calls the « pretense to reportorial accuracy » in early modern novels (Ibid. p. 218).

35 Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, op. cit., p. 69.

36 Ibid., p. 69.

37 Ibid., p. 191.

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