By Jack Lynch
Last updated 3 April 1995.
Because Hartley has thoroughly covered Sterne scholarship from 1900 through 1977 in a pair of annotated bibliographies (items 11 and 12), I cover only articles published since 1978 with a few exceptions. There are a manageable number of books on Tristram Shandy published in the half-century, and I mention the more important; and a few articles published before 1977 are important enough (either in their own right or as influences on subsequent articles) that I include them.
The first edition, published serially from 1760 [i.e. 1759] to 1767. For complete bibliographical details, see Monkman's appendix to the Florida edition (item 2).
The standard edition, superseding Work: an authoritative text and an entire volume of explicatory glosses.
Cross's text is to date the standard complete works. It includes Percy Fitzgerald's Life, originally written in 1864 as a response to Thackeray. The introductions and the commentaries are excellent, if long out of date.
A reliable text, but without introduction or commentary.
The standard edition until it was superseded by the News' Florida edition. Still useful for its notes, though many of them have been incorporated into the Florida edition, and for its excellent though brief introduction.
A carefully prepared collated text with very good introductions and commentary.
The most easily available text reasonably reliable, reasonably well annotated, and reasonably priced.
A better text than the Penguin edition, including a number of useful critical essays and contemporary commentary.
Inexpensive, but not as well prepared as other paperback editions.
Largely superseded by the following item, which covers nearly all its territory more thoroughly. Its only immediate value is in cataloguing items that appeared between 1896 and 1900.
These two items constitute the most thorough bibliography of Sterne studies in the first three quarters of the twentieth century. The annotations are thorough, and the introductory essays provide excellent surveys of the history of Sterne criticism.
Bony helps to update the Hartley bibliographies (items 11 and 12, above).For other partial bibliographies, see Fluchère (item 17) and Myer (item 83) below.
The Shandean addresses itself to mostly factual (rather than interpretive) matters about Sterne; it functions as a one-author Notes & Queries. Still, in the traditional distinction between scholarship and criticism, Sterne must be well treated by the scholars, and The Shandean is valuable for its collection of meticulous research.
A collection of brief reviews and short notices on early eighteenth-century British literature, focusing especially on the two literary circles mentioned in the title. Sterne is a regular presence in each issue. A peculiarity of The Scriblerian: its treatment of articles on Sterne tends to be uncommonly harsh (even for them), probably reflecting the composition of its stable of (mostly anonymous) contributors.
For decades the standard biography, long since thoroughly outdated and superseded by Fluchère (item 17) and Cash (items 19 and 20). Cross's work focuses on Sterne's bagatelles, his free-spiritedness in a way Cash's more sober biography doesn't. The book is still worth a browse.
A huge and hugely important biography and interpretation of Sterne's life and work. The complete text (which began as Fluchère's thèse de doctorat ès lettres) is available only in French, though there is an abridged English translation (see item 32, below). Fluchère acknowledges his considerable debt to Cross's biography (item 16), which he calls (in as extravagant praise as one is likely to find anywhere in Sterne scholarship) "un modèle de patient recherche et d'intelligente curiosité, type de la biography 'scientifique' qui ne veut omettre aucun détail, et qui, cependant, n'étouffe pas la personnalité de l'écrivain sous la masse des documents." Fluchère has been criticized for being too reductive and fragmentary, for side-stepping the more vexed critical questions, and it is true there is little on Sterne's sentimentalism and stylistic experimentation. But the critical coverage is thorough and the work is well indexed, with an extremely thorough (though ill organized) bibliography of primary and secondary works from the Renaissance through 1960 (pp. 657-93).
Wild Excursions describes an eccentric and troubled Sterne. Thomson is a journalist, not a scholar, and his biography is not traditionally scholarly, but neither is it wanting thorough research, even if there is little or no new material. The focus is on Sterne's modernity, with comparisons to the experimental novels of twentieth-century novelists such as Norman Mailer.
These two items together now constitute the standard biography, taking the title from Cross (item 16). Cash swears off attempting a critical monograph, preferring to use the works to illuminate the life rather than the life to illuminate the works. But the meticulous research and the close attention to the works themselves make for illuminating reading. Cash is more sober, more "adult," than Cross; he presents the long-controversial parts of Sterne's life without comment, refusing to moralize. There is little new raw material, but the old materials are impeccably organized in the definitive word on the life so far.
The closest thing to a catalogue of Sterne's library. The key words above are "among which are included" -- there is no means of distinguishing Sterne's volumes from others.
Includes a catalogue of anonymous periodical pieces believed to have been written by Sterne.
An anthology of early criticism and commentary on Sterne's works, including contributions from Sterne himself: letters to friends and remarks within the text of Tristram Shandy directed at his readers. Coverage runs from 1760 through the early 1830s, and includes all the early reviews and contributions from such figures as Horace Walpole, Boswell, Gray, Goldsmith, Burke, Richardson, Hurd, Hume, Churchill, Elizabeth Carter, Garrick, Thomas Jefferson, Johnson, Cleland, Burns, Hannah More, Hester Piozzi, Anna Seward, Beattie, Ferriar, Isaac D'Israeli, Godwin, Lamb, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Byron, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Keats, De Quincey, and Carlyle. Nor is the coverage restricted to the English-speaking world: the impact of Tristram Shandy on world literature is clear in comments from Diderot, Voltaire, StaČl, Wieland, Herder, Goethe, Novalis, Schlegel, Hegel, Pushkin, and Foscolo. Howes's admirable breadth of coverage is, alas, achieved at the expense of depth; the extracts are often abridged too much. But his Yorick and the Critics (item 29) provides the depth wanting here.
Hawley tracks down the hundreds of books, real and invented, quoted or alluded to in Tristram Shandy. The first part simply catalogues works and the characters with whom they are associated; the second considers the implications of attributing each work to each character.
Davidson hunts through the novel looking for clues to establish a chronology. In fact she produces several: one is devoted to Tristram's authorship, another to verifiable historical dates, another to fictional dates. She ends by integrating them into one time-line of twenty-seven dates.
The famous essay from the prominent Russian Formalist. "I intend to use [Tristram Shandy] merely as an illustration of the general laws of novelistic form, for Sterne here was an extreme revolutionary. His typical method is to proceed by 'laying bare' the literary device; form exists for itself and has no ulterior motivation." Shklovsky likens Tristram Shandy to Picasso and to "a futuristic poem in an extra-rational language" a direct precursor to Modernism. The essay amounts to a rejection of realism: "Art forms are to be explained in terms of the laws of their artistic orientation and not in terms of their motivation to exhibit a mode of life." It ends with the famous tag, "Tristram Shandy is the most typical novel of world literature."
A now classic essay placing Tristram Shandy in a scholastic tradition. Jefferson considers the literary kind to which the novel belongs, and suggests the analogies to modern writers misses the point: "he differs fundamentally from those writers in being also of an older and better school." This scholastic approach has "a speculative freedom, a dialectical ingenuity, which lends itself to witty development." This pre- Enlightenment tradition, inherited from Burton and Browne, is the one in which Swift works, and is distinctively anti-modern: Locke and his supporters fought actively against it. But the attitude survived into the eighteenth century, in part due to the publication of the Urquhart and Motteux Rabelais, the third volume of which appeared in 1693. Jefferson looks at the ways in which this "learned wit" shows up in Tristram Shandy's discussions of science, medicine, law, religion, and daily commonplaces.
A major old-guard rhetorical interpretation of Tristram Shandy. Traugott views Tristram Shandy not as a novel but as an exercise in rhetoric in a Lockean world. The book, he argues, is about the problems of communication between isolated minds; the focus is on the use Sterne makes of Locke in this epistemological and rhetorical morass, where communication is possible only if words and concepts are clearly defined. Tristram, the "facetious rhetor," controls the progress of the work in ways illuminated by the relationship of Sterne the novelist and Sterne the preacher.
Howes's monograph addresses Sterne's early reception, focusing especially on the materials he assembled for his Critical Heritage volume (item 23).
An important and influential chapter (pp. 221-40 and 430-32) on Tristram Shandy argues that Sterne's "dramatized narrator" holds the text together and provides a unity certainly more unity than the work had been granted. Booth looks at the "Shandean commentary" and considers both the advantages and disadvantages of this sort of self-conscious narrator or commentator, and looks at works that do similar things, including imitations of Tristram Shandy itself. Booth rejects Traugott (item 28) for his "monolithic" treatment of Sterne and for reducing the complexities and richness of the novel to the vague label "philosophical rhetoric."
An influential essay on the importance of gravity's "messy fatality" in Tristram Shandy. Burckhardt is careful not to look for "the law" of Tristram Shandy, "one of the least promising enterprises in criticism," but he suggests gravity is a structuring principle of the novel. His approach "restores to the word 'gravity' the physical weight and concreteness which we too readily vaporise into the evanescence of an idea," and he therefore proposes "we must read Sterne far more literally i.e., corporeally than has commonly been done; we are sure to miss his meaning if we smile too quickly at his 'irony.'" This new emphasis on corporeality has had a tremendous influence on recent critics, who place much more emphasis on the physical body than was common in the New Criticism of 1961.
An English translation of the critical part of item 17, leaving almost none of the biographical materials intact. Fluchère argues Sterne's distinctive "cheerfulness" is based not on Rousseau's natural goodness as Rabelais's pantagruelisme.
Traugott assembles previously published essays and book chapters by Benjamin Lehman, Alan Dugald McKillop, Viktor Shklovsky (see items 26 and 60), W. B. C. Watkins, D. W. Jefferson (item 27), and himself (an extract from his book, item 28).
New's controversial book grew out of his dissertation, and was itself revised from his earlier "Tristram Shandy" as a Prose Satire (1966). New states his thesis clearly at the beginning: "Tristram Shandy can best be understood by locating it in the mainstream of the conservative, moralistic Augustan tradition; and Tristram Shandy can best be understood through the intentions and conventions of the dominant literary form of that tradition, satire." Sterne is made out to be an orthodox Latitudinarian clergyman, taking the Anglican church as "the source of satiric norms," as one chapter title has it; Swift provides the next chapter title, "the source of satiric conventions." Tristram himself is made out to be the butt of the satiric attacks, particularly in his sentimentalism: sentiment comes in for attacks because Shaftesburian benevolism threatens Anglican orthodoxy. Four long chapters proceed chronologically through the nine volumes of the novel. New took a great deal of criticism for being unnecessarily thesis-bound and humorless; that his book lacks subtlety is perhaps a fairer criticism.
A seminal collection of papers delivered at the University of York in 1968. Contributors include Jean-Jacques Mayoux (item 41), Robert Gorham Davis (item 37), Denis Donoghue (item 38), Malcolm Bradbury (item 36), William Holtz (item 39), Eugene Hnatko (item 40), Louis T. Milic (item 42), Helene Moglen (item 43), Clarence Tracy (item 44), Kenneth Monkman, Pat Rogers, and others.
A light and witty consideration of Sterne's irony. Bradbury makes Sterne out to be an ironist rather than a satirist; his irony lacks Swiftian saeva indignatio. His irony, in fact, becomes a survival mechanism which insulates us from "the farce of life": "Comedy is rather the good temper with which we bear the ironical universe, and enables misfortune to take on a comic guise."
Sterne, says Davis, not merely adumbrates the Modernist novel he is the best exemplar of its form. "Tristram Shandy demonstrates more fully and translucently the basic ontology of the novel, the sense of what the novel really is and does, as we have come to understand it in recent years, than any other single modern novel you can mention." Joyce and Mann looked to Sterne for his self-conscious narrative and his self-parody. But while the Modernists looked to Freud, Sterne is more Cervantic than Freudian, though he shares Freud's concern with phallic symbols and sexuality.
A meditation on Lockean subjectivity. Donoghue considers how Sterne might fit in the English moralist tradition not conventionally, for, as Johnson said, "Nothing odd will do long," and Tristram Shandy is certainly odd. But perhaps his subjectivism makes up for his oddity, and he finds a way into moralism through sentiment for sentiment leads to the comedy of Joyce and Beckett. But we should resist that last step, for Sterne is not a modern but a man of his time, "though he complicates our sense of that time."
The typographical effects in Tristram Shandy remind the reader both of his or her role in communicating, and of the ultimate inadequacies of writing as compared to speech. Holtz's Bergson-influenced reading suggests Tristram Shandy is based on the theme of misunderstanding, but "Sterne was an accomplished rhetorician, playing artfully upon his reader's responses." He forces our collaboration in the creation of meaning.
Sterne's style has often been characterized as "conversational," and many of the verbal and visual effects in Tristram Shandy give the impression of conversational speech. Hnatko distinguishes the conversational from the simply oral, for balance, antithesis, alliteration, assonance, and consonance though directed at the ear are more incantatory than conversational, which is properly spontaneous, copious, and partly non-verbal. But Sterne achieves these effects with typography, reminding us that the conversational effect is only an illusion. Sterne's works in fact don't play well in radio plays, since their style is not so much conversational as "conversationalistic."
Mayoux examines Sterne's manipulation of time. From Locke, Sterne learned that the true life is lived in the mind, and each mind has its own private sense of time time, therefore, is privileged over space. This concern with the mental life makes Sterne an analogue to Donne; "Sterne may well be termed a metaphysical novelist." Only the writer himself is able to manipulate time. The best twentieth-century analogy is the cinema, for Sterne is a master of ellipse and montage.
Milic applies information theory (with all its tables and statistics) to Sterne's stylistic tricks, and suggests that we should consider the book finished: "That Sterne turned his attention next to a different kind of book is hardly surprising. He had exhausted the possibilities of the style of Tristram Shandy." Milic's paper is long and technical, concerned with defining literary effects in informational terms, and he points out the paradoxical tendency of visual techniques to produce conversational effects is "only weakly descriptive and is based on an erroneous notion of the relation between speech and writing."
Integrated as part four of Moglen's book, item 48 below.
Tracy points out the close relationship between the novel and the intimate biography, the two truly new forms of the eighteenth century. The new emphasis on intimacy, often expressed through anecdotes, informs both Boswell and Sterne, who are ultimately doing similar things. (Tristram Shandy's full title, of course, begins with "The Life.") Just as Macaulay apotheosized Boswell for being the transparent "idiot- biographer," Sterne creates an idiot-narrator with the same access to Boswellian intimacy.
Sterne is here an innovator and precursor of the modern "musical novel," the aim of which Freedman defines as "not to halt time in patterns of imagery, but to somehow reproduce its insistent flow in moving patterns of narrative, memory, and thought." Sterne's attention to subjectivism, psychological time, and the perpetual present make him the ancestor of Bergsonian psychological novels and the musical novels of Gide, Mann, Proust, Hesse, Huxley, and Joyce Inexplicably excluded from Hartley's bibliography.
A major work, which treats Tristram Shandy from the perspective of the game theory of Huizinga and Caillois. The Games of Pleasure grew out of a study of Sterne's participation in Renaissance rhetorical traditions, and its emphasis on Sterne as a strange homo rhetoricus betrays the book's origins. The world of Tristram Shandy is best interpreted as a grand bagatelle, a meaningless existential world, it is true, but one given rather to pleasure- seeking than to despair. Nothing is taken seriously here but pleasure. Tristram is ultimately not a rhetorician because his concern is not persuasion but pleasure, the simple joy of the text. Lanham concentrates not on Sterne's anticipations of modernity but on the traditional legacy he inherits: Tristram Shandy is "the last classical narrative." The first chapter includes a useful, though not systematic, synopsis of criticism of Tristram Shandy from the Victorians through the middle twentieth century.
Jackson covers much of the same ground as Ferriar's 1791 exploration of Sterne's use of Burton's Anatomy, but she does it with a more sophisticated grasp of the function of allusion and imitation. Where Ferriar saw only humorless plagiary, Jackson sees Burton as the key to many of Sterne's jokes, as when his attack on plagiary is itself plagiarized from Burton. Though much of the article drily catalogues Burtonian borrowings Ferriar missed, the careful examination of the importance of these borrowings illuminates Sterne's satires on pedantry.
Moglen began this work as a dissertation, and previously published an early version of the fourth part in The Winged Skull (item 35). Though Locke has long been recognized as a major figure in Tristram Shandy, Sterne himself has rarely been granted great powers as a thinker. Moglen insists he must "be taken seriously as a perceptive and creative critic of philosophy" in this thorough re-examination of the Lockean elements of the novel. Locke is the dominant figure; the first chapter, entitled "John Locke, the Hero of Tristram Shandy," makes no bones about it. Sterne, concerned with the darker side of life and with translating the tragic into comedy, is at once a satirist, a psychological novelist, and a philosopher; the three together make for the complex relationships between Sterne, Tristram, and the reader. Sterne, in a chapter on "the Contemporary Vision," is pictured as a "prophet" of modernism who created the stream of consciousness and made possible the work of Gide, Proust, Woolf, Joyce, the Jameses, Bergson, and Freud.
A formidable attempt to reconcile the serious and the comic aspects of Tristram Shandy in a meditation on the problems of identity. Swearingen finds Sterne's importance in a synthesis of the eighteenth-century empiricism of Locke and Hume with the twentieth-century phenomenology of Heidegger and Husserl, finally concluding the novel is a phenomenology. Though an important study, Swearingen's phenomenology is often dense to the point of unreadability "The novel is an incipient phenomenology the ultimate aim of which is an ontological analysis of the meaning of Tristram's being" is as clear a sentence is one can find in the volume.
"This is a book," says Conrad, "less about than around Tristram Shandy." The novel's contexts in intellectual and aesthetic history, rather than the novel itself, are Conrad's concern; he suggests that its marginalization as an "Augustan" novel disappears if we think of it as an early work of Romanticism: "If considered in relation to the history of romanticism, ... Tristram Shandy acquires a complicated and central significance which makes it genuinely original"; "Romanticism, reinterpreting Sterne, removes him from the eccentric periphery of literary tradition to the centre." Tristram is born from the Romantic rewriting of Shakespeare, who is a major presence here: only Shakespeare could pull off the successful blending of comedy and tragedy, which in later ages splinters into satire, sentiment, and irony. In the space between these three Sterne situates his work. Though there is a fair amount of attention to Sterne's rough contemporaries, Hogarth, Burke, and Fuseli, Conrad is more interested in viewing Tristram Shandy against Don Giovanni, Byron, Coleridge, Kierkegaard, and Mahler.
Warburton's importance in Tristram Shandy has never been denied; Sterne's sometime friend, sometime patron, and sometime rival is often hinted at in the book. But whereas the traditional interpretation has Sterne attacking Warburton for his Divine Legation of Moses, Doherty suggests the attacks are not aimed at Warburton. For a response, see New, item 64.
A quirky article -- I expect nothing else from Dowling -- on the readers addressed as "Sir" and "Madam." Whereas most critics take this in the direction of feminist criticism, Dowling uses it as an opportunity to argue that Tristram is not, in fact, the novel's narrator; he imagines instead an unnamed clergyman from Yorkshire who adopts Tristram's voice as his own.
"Two apparently unrelated issues will be brought together in this essay. One is the relationship between Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and eighteenth-century physiology; the other is the development in character and narrative technique in this most self-conscious novel." Though he does not suggest any direct influence of the one on the other, Rodgers argues that Sterne's narrative techniques parallel those of mid-century physiologists who rejected mechanism and vitalism.
Ehlers's formidable though controversial thesis distinguishes the misogyny of Tristram and Walter from Sterne's own attitudes toward women: "Sterne's novel is indeed very much of a 'woman's book,'" she argues, "in which women are invested with considerable, though untapped, restorative powers." The men's division from women means they "suffer from a nearly irreversible split between mind and body, or intellect and procreation," but women ultimately offer a saving grace. Mrs. Shandy becomes for Ehlers a means to Christian salvation, "a satiric norm for revealing the shortcomings of Walter, Toby, and particularly Tristram." For reactions, see Ostovich (item 83) and Loscocco (item 89).
A brief note on Locke's discussion of the monstrous and its influence on Tristram Shandy. Locke shook up the traditional belief in distinct human and animal essences by placing them on a continuum. This attack on essentialism leads to a fluid rather than a static conception of personality, a conception Sterne borrows in creating "neither beasts nor rational paragons, but ... something in between."
Locke's epistemology most successfully rescues Sterne from Ferriar's (and others') accusations of plagiary, for all consciousness is ultimately imitative in eighteenth-century aesthetic thought, even direct experience is understood only as mimesis, imitation of something else. "A true imitator does much more than simply spatchcock other texts into his own, or dutifully give a foreign idea an 'agreeable turn': other men's thoughts are not a supplement to his own but the very means by which his own thought takes place." "Montaigne and Burton," Lamb continues, "are the two contemplative models, as it were, and Don Quixote the active one. Between them they represent the two sides of imitation: responding to literature as pure experience on the one hand, and converting experience into literary analogue on the other." The essay begins promisingly enough, though soon gets bogged down; still, it remains a challenging contribution to the problem of imitation.
Lamb traces "a line of development from mock-epic theory and practice to the 'process-writing' of Laurence Sterne," noting the eighteenth century's peculiar fascination with epic and tragedy: "The best writers of the early eighteenth century possessed a body of critical theory concerning epic and tragedy which they carefully elaborated, fiercely defended, and hardly ever put into practice." The need to write sublime works in an ironic age leads to what Lamb calls the "comic sublime." Longinus is filtered through British individualism whether it be called singularity, irregularity, or humorism combined with Cervantic humor to produce the comic sublime, which informs both Swift and Sterne.
What began as a larger study of Sterne's style soon claimed to focus on punctuation alone, although "punctuation" for Moss includes typography and other visual effects. Sterne uses these effects (limited to print culture rather than orality; typography is spatial rather than temporal) to "separat[e] the reader from the comfortable assumption of a human voice." Though Moss doesn't use the word, Structuralist alienation is behind much of his argument. The attention to the details of typography expand into a more general consideration of the physicality of the book, and then to "the incompatible claims made by the body and the mind the lumpish demands of the body to be included in the darting life of the mind, and the incessant reminders to the mind that it is not free of physical restraints and physical identity" (he is here on Burckhardt's turf; see item 31).
Peterfreund contextualizes Tristram Shandy in the eighteenth-century debate over the proper function of history whether history is better argued from authority or from lived experience and suggests that Sterne's out is an essentially ironic view of history, a retreat into subjectivity. "If the language of historiography is not able to capture adequately the truth of the external event, the only function it can assume is that of self-reflexive fiction." This reflexivity is a retreat from the external world of empirically verified sensual observation: "Apparently overwhelmed by the plethora of detail on which he might found his historical consciousness, Tristram sees but one way to make the detail cohere meaningfully by its steady and systematic subjection to language functioning as the instrument of the intentional consciousness."
A new translation of Shklovsky's classic essay (item 26).
"This essay is a step towards a grammar of literary allusion," a Burkean grammar in which Sterne has only one part. Folkenflik is concerned with a general theory of allusion, particularly the distinctive uses to which it was put in the eighteenth century, and he turns to Johnson, Pope, Swift, Fielding, and Sterne for material. Of Sterne, he says "The whole of Tristram Shandy may be taken as an education in the understanding of allusion. ... Tristram Shandy is full of riddles, hints and implications, but these are put in the service of our coming to know Tristram and overcoming the solipsism which engulfs the characters of the novel." Sterne's use of allusion serves to stretch out his language indefinitely "so that he may stay with us and endure despite his obvious vulnerability. Sterne is the Scheherazade of English literature."
A meditation on fragmentariness and the eighteenth- century vogue for ancient and "Gothick" fragments. Sterne's manufactured fragments, Harries suggests, call to mind the Biblical context of John 6:13, "Gather up the fragments that remain." "The fragmentary," says Harries, "was always connected with the notion of overflow or plenitude in apparent dearth; with the command to collect that overflow or the significance of the apparently insignificant; and ultimately with the Eucharist a memorial that is also a renewal." Sterne's novels moralize on "the necessary incompleteness of our attempts to make sense of life's fragments and of life itself as a fragment, but also [on] the expanding and ultimately liberating power of those attempts."
Loveridge calls his monograph "an enquiry into Laurence Sterne's uses of the concepts of pattern, design, and form." The title, and many of the insights, are borrowed from Battestin's "Tom Jones: The Argument of Design"; Loveridge applies a similar concern with architectonics to Tristram Shandy, and relates these patterns to the larger Augustan ideas of order and design ranging from the smallest matters to the cosmic. Loveridge questions the degree to which Sterne's apparently iconoclastic works are part of the tradition of the novel; "The paradox is that to break design and pattern is to be expressive of form." The book comprises mostly untheoretical close readings, with chapters on form, plot and character, science, Locke, sentimentalism, &c. Loveridge is much more thoroughly versed in eighteenth-century sources than in contemporary criticism, with which he makes little effort to engage his concerns are more often the debates that occupied the critics of the fifties and sixties than those of his own generation. His work is also marred by the occasional factual inaccuracy. Tristram Shandy is the central figure, but A Sentimental Journey gets a chapter to itself and many of the illustrations.
A somewhat dry and sober scholarly account New's strength, really of Warburton's influence on Sterne, reacting to Doherty's article (item 51) and arguing for a more prominent place of Warburton (and The Divine Legation of Moses) in eighteenth-century studies generally. New looks in vain to Bloom and Bate for a model to understand Sterne's peculiar relationship with Warburton, "both a model and an antagonist"; Sterne negotiates his way through this tangle by translating Warburton into the novel's Giovanni della Casa.
The number of Essays in Criticism is devoted to "Annotated English Novels," so Rogers gives a call for greater attention to the importance of proverbs, clichés, catch-phrases, and commonplaces in the novel: "It is ... vital that an editor pays attention to what might be called the loose change of composition in a particular work." Tristram Shandy is a perfect test-ground: "At least fifty portions of the text contain references to what might be termed fully paid-up proverb lore, but this is only one aspect of the verbal situation. What Sterne does is to invent his own proverbs, to mix stock phrases with his private idiosyncratic usages, generally to infuse into his idiom the tang of catchphrase, cliché and cant."
A learned but quirky meditation on various kinds of "models," particularly in "four central motifs: miniature life, the hobbyhorse, warfare on the bowling-green, and the journey." Gysin gives a careful reading of Tristram Shandy in which he is always cautious to avoid building systems, Walter's great fault. The model the homunculus as a model for the man, the hobbyhorse seen against real horses provides an opportunity to compare the physical to the figurative, and to explore the operation of metaphor in the novel. Chapter one, section 3, provides a very clear and useful exposition of the major critical issues in Tristram Shandy scholarship in the last half- century.
A surprisingly unappreciated collection of previously unpublished essays by some of the giants in Sterne studies: New, Howes, the Blooms, Day, Porter, Loveridge, and others. Myer begins with a declaration of her faith that amounts to a rejection of contemporary literary theory: "It behoves an editor to declare her bias. My special interest lies in interpretation, the rediscovery of meanings in the light of what used to be called background studies. ... I am an unrepentant British empiricist, hoping to build by rule of thumb squarely in the Anglo-American tradition of historical scholarship, as a means towards that historical sympathy which alone can teach us about ourselves. Theoretical system-building seems to me sterile." Day contributes an annotated bibliography that supplements Hartley by covering the period 1977-1983.
A look at variety versus uniformity in Tristram Shandy, drawing analogues from the sister art of painting. The term "use of accidents" comes from Reynolds, who, with Hogarth, is a major presence in this discussion of late eighteenth-century aesthetic theory. Other analogues are Longinus's sublime and the eighteenth-century painter Cozens's experimentation with creating art from ink blots. The marbled page is a neat emblem of Sterne's "controlled variety," for the expert marbler works with randomness but still has some control over the end result. That every marbled page is different also provides an emblem for each reader's subjective experience of the novel.
The promise of Speck's beginning applying Lévi-Strauss's notion of bricolage to Tristram Shandy falls into disappointment not long after the essay begins. The single-mindedness of the essay's thesis, and the inability to do anything with the observation, is frustrating; when Speck turns to the various literal and metaphorical hinges in and around the book, it is clear we are dealing with his own hobby-horse. There is little that is new here, which is at once surprising and disappointing, given the potential of the approach.
Bloom's volume for the Modern Critical Interpretations series includes essays by Dorothy Van Ghent, Martin Price, Ronald Paulson, Ian Watt, Martin Battestin, Robert Alter, and Max Byrd. Whereas most volumes in the series place the emphasis on the "Modern," devoting roughly half their pages to criticism since the mid-seventies, all but one article in this collection antedate Hartley's 1978 bibliography.
A dense article that has little to say that hasn't already been said often. Chabut looks at Tristram Shandy's engagement in notions of history and personal history, relating them in particular to realism and verisimilitude, with frequent comparisons to Diderot. She ends on a Barthesian note: "En effet, tout texte n'est-il-pas 'lisible,' c'est-à-dire compréhensible, vraisemblable par rapport à tel ou tel système de valeurs, et ne sommes-nous pas,àÖ un degré plus ou moins grand, maniuplés par un écriture à la croire 'scriptible'?" This imprecision and wishy-washiness is characteristic of much of the argument.
"Tristram, like his father," argues Cruise, "is victimized, albeit obliquely, by bourgeois values." The Shandys are the victims of the new fallen world of divided labor celebrated by Smith, a commercial world that threatens the Filmerian patriarchal system close to Walter Shandy's heart. Tristram's only out is writing, which he uses as a tool to resist encroaching commercialism and the definitions it imposes: "Tristram manages and manipulates his narrative authority, both formally and structurally, as to undermine definitions of all kinds, and thereby the authority of bourgeois ideology." Writing resists the closure imposed by bourgeois ideology. The literary closure Cruise sees in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding is attributed to their buying into this ideology; Tristram Shandy's peculiarities are a protest against Smith's vision. Of this article the anonymous Scriblerian reviewer writes, with characteristic Schadenfreude, "Mr. Cruise has built himself a wonderfully unsound argument and it is rather a pleasure to watch it collapse. ... Ideology at the end of a gun is only slightly less subtle than the argument in these pages, ... and without doubt the true parent of all such argumentation is Walter Shandy."
More scholarship than criticism, if the distinction is good for anything. Golden digs through the periodical literature of the middle eighteenth century and turns up a number of close analogues to events, characters, and situations in the novel. He argues that these reveal a sophisticated relationship between Sterne's fiction and the real world, though he doesn't go far enough in discussing the implications for discussions of realism.
Oakleaf looks at the connotations of the hobby-horse in the eighteenth century: "To recover the hobby-horse in Tristram Shandy, we must recover the literal meanings of the word about which associations swirl." He looks at the child's toy and the hobby-horse of the morris dance, and argues the hobby-horse is a more suitable emblem for the book than most readers have assumed.
A dense and not particularly well focused essay on the importance of scholarly discourse, especially textual criticism, in Sterne's narrative representation. "Sterne's novel creates itself before our eyes, assembling itself as a book in the way that a textual editor might disassemble one." Zimmerman places Tristram Shandy in the context of mid-century debates over history, allegory, and textual authority (such as that over Job initiated by Warburton), and argues it "reflects for us that separation between presence and medium that was exacerbated by eighteenth-century historical and religious scholarship. Sterne exposes the processes of narrative representation, showing us that his story is the produce of the interaction of the narrator Tristram with the limited possibilities of his medium, as well as with the reality or being that the story purports to represent."
An expanded version of an ill-focused essay in Myer's collection (item 67). The Blooms consider the role of time and chance in Tristram Shandy (and, to a lesser extent, A Sentimental Journey), looking at reactions to the threat of death Tristram's, Walter's, and Sterne's. The novel is about Tristram's reaction to what Johnson calls "small vexations continually repeated." "Tristram beguiles in part because of his picaresque adaptability. Whatever the 'small evil,' he rebounds." The novel therefore "exacts sympathy with a fallible hero who approximates ourselves."
A convenient introduction for students in the Landmarks of World Literature Series. Iser's unsurprisingly philosophical study devotes sections to subjectivity, writing strategies, and textual play. The book is laid out thematically, and covers mostly familiar ground useful for undergraduates, but there is little that is new here.
Perry challenges Ehlers's reading of a feminist Tristram Shandy (item 54) in this incisive and influential essay. Language and sexuality are closely related, she finds, and the novel "allegorizes the continuity and interchangeability of these two realms." She finds Tristram Shandy "a man's book if ever there was one," and uses Freud and Lacan and, more important, feminist critiques of them by Kristeva and Cixous to show how the novel works to deny language to women. "In this phallocentric world, women have no language to call their own. ... What they know, they know with their bodies. ... They can resist language, but not initiate or command it." A fulfilling heterosexual relationship is nowhere to be found, and "The marriage between Toby and Trim is the emotional center of the book." Tristram's birth becomes an emblem for the novel; though a central event, the physical parturition takes place in another room and its only effect on the male world of language is that Mrs. Shandy's screaming leaves us so "we can scarce hear ourselves talk" "All this comic business about childbirth," Perry says, "demonstrates the author's failure to take seriously the woman's point of view." "In its very form, Tristram Shandy shows how the eroticized verbal functions in the bonding between men."
This excellent article places Sterne in Jefferson's tradition of "learned wit" (see item 27): "Sterne invokes his literary parentage, calls the reader's attention to his repetition of other voices, so that the difference of his own voice will be marked against a field constituted by fideistic skeptical narrative." Sterne's tradition opposes that of Richardson and Fielding, who, for all their differences, believed in the possibility of realistic fiction to "secure inductively certain interpretation." Wehrs moves effortlessly through the work of Erasmus, Cervantes, and Sterne on the one hand, and of Lacan and Bakhtin on the other, asserting that Sterne "construct[s] a narrative in which the techniques of Richardson and Fielding, carried to comic extremes, subvert naturalized interpretation by offering multiple inductive possibilities, proliferating connotations, and thus dramatizing the reader's role ... in manufacturing a form of coherence" in "a world supersaturated with meaning."
A very introductory guide to the novel, aimed at undergraduates or even high school students. Tristram Shandy "has attracted a great deal of critical debate," admits Whittaker, "but in this Guide I am going to concentrate on those aspects of it which are appropriate to a first reading." The frequent discussion questions and exhortations such as "Now read chapter one" reveal its pedagogical origins.
Klein's dense philosophical treatment of Sterne argues, in the tradition of Swearingen (item 49), that Tristram Shandy "transcends outer objectivity as presented by a third-person narrator and turns beyond empiricism of happenings and facts toward a subjectivist epistemology. ... The conceptual relationship between 'identity' and 'world' is no longer based on the subject-object pattern, but on a redefined concept of 'reality' including a cognitive-constructive point of view." The prose gets no better than this, and although Klein may have something worthwhile to say, he never once quotes the text of Tristram Shandy, making for a superficial argument that is never easy to follow, even through its mere three pages of text.
Like the other volumes in the MLA's "Approaches to Teaching" series, New's volume begins by surveying the available editions for classroom use and the secondary sources most useful to students. Contributors including a number of prominent Sterne scholars suggest ways to make Sterne play in the classroom; the several chapters focus on different thematic approaches and different types of courses in which Tristram Shandy might be taught. Strictly pedagogical in its approach.
An important, though widely criticized, feminist reading that follows the reading of Ehlers (item 54). Sterne's (or Tristram's) adversarial relationship with his reader, argues Ostovich, paradoxically leads to the "stimulation and provocation, the equal engagement of writer and reader in the creative journeying through the novel." It follows, then, that the narrator's greatest adversary, the female reader identified as "Madam," comes closest to being an active participant in the creation of meaning. At times Ostovich is excessively essentialist, as when she argues that "although men value autonomy, women value relationships. ... The suggestion, then, that the author is male, the reader female, however reductive, is intrinsic to the whole context of Sterne's sexualization of disputing opposites: soul and body, reason and sensibility, and especially wit and judgment." Wit becomes a masculine assertion of potency, while "Judgment appears to be the feminine prerogative, a role of the reader: being receptive to the writer's probing wit." The novel is therefore revealed to be, in spite of the apparent misogyny, a work of crypto-feminism.
A scholarly contribution to the critical debate over Sterne's use of the book of Job, particularly the importance of Warburton's Divine Legation see, for instance, New on "Exuberant Wit" (item 64). Lamb explores rhetorical pleonasm as it relates to the debate between Warburton and Lowth. Rhetoric, argues Lamb, is at the heart of the quarrel: "For all its concern with the questions of allegory and figurative language, the Job controversy is always in danger of running aground on literalisms." Though learned and historically informed, Lamb gives only two of his nineteen pages to Sterne.
In the tradition of Burckhardt (item 31), McMaster places the emphasis on the physical body. She perhaps goes to far in saying "Mind and body with the indissoluble links between them, and their simultaneously tragic and comic discontinuity are surely the major over-arching subject of Tristram Shandy" few critics are bold enough to identify "the major over-arching subject" of the novel, and fewer still would make such a statement "surely." But this interest in corporeality gives us new insights into Sterne's borrowings from Burton, historian of the body, and Locke, historian of the mind. "The body in Tristram Shandy is viewed as a dark covering of uncrystallized flesh rather than a lucid medium," and we therefore "get little in the way of vivid physical description of faces, figures, and so forth." Corporeality leads to sexuality, and McMaster ends by arguing that the novel, in spite of Walter's misogyny, allows for the possibility of picturing the body from a woman's perspective.
A dense narratological reading of Tristram Shandy, derived largely from Genette, but with references to Miller, de Man, and other post-structuralist critics. Williams's thesis is that "Tristram Shandy is a narrative of narrative. The so-called narrative intrusions and comments actually form a linear narrative whose subject is the composing of a narrative." To demonstrate it, he draws on a large and complicated jargon of narratology, giving passages like this: "This sequence could then be given: E (C (Ca, A, Aa)- C (A, B)- C (A, B)- C (B, Cd)- Cs- C (Cs, A, B)- D (Dd)- B- B). The plot(s) could be reductively summarized: E (C-C-C-C-Cs-C-D-B-B), factoring out the level of narration. From these notations, we should be able to see that the overall shape of the novel is fairly simple." 'Nuff said.
Brown's book, which reclaims a formerly unpopular term, includes a chapter on "Sterne's Stories" (pp. 261-300). Sterne is surprisingly rarely read against such "pre-Romantics" as Gray and Collins, and Brown's approach is refreshing, but is inadequately developed and has few new insights. One of the less impressive moments in an otherwise challenging book.
A witty (but not always clear) essay that explores the uses of memory in Tristram Shandy. Chibka tries to answer Monkman's call for "a detailed study of the way Shakespeare's words and thinking are woven into the texture of Tristram Shandy." Yorick, of course, is a Shakespearean borrowing, but the hobby-horse itself has a pedigree in Hamlet. Chibka considers the use of literary forebears, summarizing, "He whose autobiography consists almost entirely of biography uses others' lives as the plagiarist uses others' words: as if they were his own."
Loscocco reacts to the arguments of Ehlers (item 54) and Ostovich (item 83) for a fundamentally feminist Tristram Shandy by re-asserting the traditional view that Tristram's misogyny (which can be traced back to Medieval antifeminist rhetoric on the Fall of man) cannot be distinguished from Sterne's. We should instead, argues Loscocco, learn not "to take the terms of the lapsarian metaphor literally, to read 'woman' (vs. human flesh or lust) when Sterne writes 'female,' and 'man' (vs. human reason) when he writes 'male'" any reading that accepts the terms Walter establishes is unwittingly antifeminist. "Failure to examine this compulsion has caused critical discussion to remain unselfconsciously within the novel's antifeminist paradigm of a woman-provoked Fall of man, trying to decide whom to blame for the misogynistic portrayal of women, instead of understanding why the novel hampers us as it does from any continuous grasp of that paradigm as a gender-neutral metaphor or allegory." Loscocco supersedes Perry's reading (item 78) by reading Tristram Shandy against itself, "as both a man's book and a mistaken or failed book," a failure the text itself advertises. "Tristram Shandy insists intransigently on the fact of the antifeminist error."
A brief note suggesting we consider the significance of Jenny's name. "Jenny incorporates into the novel associations with animate beings, such as wrens and especially here she-asses, and inanimate objects, weaving machinery particularly, that enrich [the] themes of sexual inadequacy, impotency, and unfulfillment helping to quicken the work. ... [Jenny] creates another aspect of meaning within the novel, joining the animal and the human, the animate and the mechanical." It's all been said before; Shipley apparently could use more familiarity with the scholia.
Another feminist reading of the novel focusing on the female reader. Benedict addresses Sterne's (or Tristram's) construction of an imagined audience, divided into 'Sir' and 'Madam' according to reading practices. Tristram attacks female literary culture (romances) and "genders right reading as male. Impression-hungry female readers and their kinds of books oppose the witty literature of male culture." There is little here that is controversial or original: though well argued and laid out, Benedict seems unaware of the considerable body of scholarship that has covered the same ground.
A cock-and-bull story Tristram Shandy certainly is; but Loveridge suggests the ending is more than a mere dismissal of what came before: a truly Shandean conclusion would have to be multivalent. The cock-and-bull finish is at once a personal joke with Sterne's friend John Hall-Stevenson and a salvo in a political battle, borrowing the terms from Smart.
New's volume in the New Casebooks series collects a number of important recent essays on the novel.
Hawley follows Burckhardt (item 31) in focusing on the physical body in Tristram Shandy, where "the body in pain commands, vibrates, writhes, sweats, is purged and bled." The relation between the body and the soul is a concern in the novel, and Sterne turns (more than his contemporaries) to medical writers such as Burton and eighteenth-century physicians. But "medicine does not form an objective background in Tristram Shandy: rather, it is worked into his fiction and intricately connected with his literary techniques." Hawley gives close readings of the passages on the homunculus, on Tristram's birth, and Walter's strange theories on conception and partition.
Rogers explores Sterne's use of the crooked line. He distinguishes this from the rococo taste derived from Hogarth's curve of beauty, because "the narrative is anything but sinuous or serpentine if we compare it to a work such as The Faerie Queene. Its shifts are rapid and disconcerting, rather than graceful in intent; and they are large shifts in tone and content, whereas the whole point about rococo curves is their shallowness." He uses this zigzaggery "in order to achieve surprise, sudden reversal, anticlimax and other rhetorical effects." Rogers finishes with an exploration of the importance of the zigzag in fortification, architecture, and gardening theory.
After the Middle Ages, where body language was the privilege of the court, "the bourgeoisie," argues Frischhertz, "became ardent observers of body language just as the courtiers had, and this concern develops throughout the seventeenth century and culminates in the eighteenth century. In both rhetorical areas and intellectual movements, nonverbal communication and gesture became central topics of social concern." Frischhertz turns to contemporary theorists of rhetoric and oratory to demonstrate the importance of gesture, body language, and other nonverbal communication in Tristram Shandy. But in spite of the abundance of such gestures in Sterne's text, "the stance that he advocates in the end is moderation. He does not assert gesture as a new language with the potential to surpass speech in importance, nor does he present verbal communication as the best and most useful form of discourse.
© Copyright 1995 Jack Lynch
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