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Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy. The Age of Sensibility 1745-98 Broad definition: the entire complex of thoughts, feelings and suppositions characteristic.

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Presentation on theme: "Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy. The Age of Sensibility 1745-98 Broad definition: the entire complex of thoughts, feelings and suppositions characteristic."— Presentation transcript:

1 Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy

2 The Age of Sensibility Broad definition: the entire complex of thoughts, feelings and suppositions characteristic of an individual or an age Narrow definition: a fashionable literary mode in the 18th c.  to refer to a susceptibility of fine and tender feelings (sorrow and sympathy)  Sentimentality (pejorative): excess of emotions  Intense personal feelings v social morals

3 Sensibility Source of great imaginative powers Source of inspiration  ‘Dear sensibility! Source inexhausted of all that’s precious in our joys, or costly in our sorrows! Thou chaniest thy martyr down upon his bed of straw – and ‘tis thou who liftest him up to Heaven – eternal fountain of our feelings!’ (Sterne) Subjective idealism (trust in natural goodness of human feelings): Kant, Rousseau

4 Sensibility Melancholy (sweet sadness) Nostalgia Artist is an introspective confessor Fascination with death and mortality Interest in mental illness and eccentricity Art should be spontaneous Enjoyment of solitude Originality v imitation

5 Sensibility (def.) Érzékenység Fogékonyság Érzékelő képesség Érzék (vmihez)

6 Sense (senses, pl.) Érzék, érzékelő képesség (five senses) Józan ész (bring sy to his senses) (ön)tudat (come to one’s senses) Érzés, érzet (inward senses) Érzék (sense of beauty) Felfogás, vélemény (senses of the meeting Érzékiség (pleasures of the senses) Ítélőképesség (good sense) Jelentés, értelem (make sense of sg)

7 Association of ideas John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)  Understanding is a finction of reason  Reason is guided by Conscience Social laws Universal laws

8 Association of ideas (cont) No innate ideas > mind is a blank sheet (tabula rasa) Experience Sense perception Simple ideas Ideas of growing complexity (association of simple ideas) >Impressions >Importance of education

9 Association of ideas (cont) Private train of associations Prisoners of consciousness Impossibility of mutual understanding through communication Possibility of communication: through conscious exertion of fellow feelings and sentiments (sympathy, sorrow, etc)

10 David Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)  Empiricism: impressions are the source of all ideas  Cause and effect between impressions and ideas is a property of the workings of the human mind; associations between ideas  we make moral judgments based on our sentiments > non-selfish ends  sympathy is a principle of communication  sympathy-based moral sentimentalism

11 Laurence Sterne ( ) born in Ireland, graduated from Cambridge University, became a vicar while married to his first wife, began a number of relationships with other women and frequently attended the meetings of an all male society called the Demoniacs 1750, a collection of sermons, which he incorporated into his main work, Tristram Shandy. Starts writing The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, publishes the first two books in 1759, York assumes the role of the sentimental and witty parson (Parson Yorick), and names his house Shandy Hall continues writing the book until the end of his life humorous characters, sentimental attitude, obscenity, shallowness of philosophy, but praised for his ‘knowledge of the human heart’ visits France, and produces A Sentimental Journey (1768): Parson Yorick’s sentimental tour through France

12 Critical opinion Dr Johnson: ‘Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last.’ Romantic writers appreciated Sterne’s original and independent spirit that revolted against Neoclassical restrictions in literature (p. 8). 20 century Modernists (Joyce and Woolf) saw his associative narrative technique as a forerunner of their own style of writing. Postmodernist and Post-structuralist writers: prefer the ludic, playful side and the experimental nature of his fiction

13 Plot?

14 Plot The narrative focuses on the consciousness of Tristram and his relationship with the other members of his eccentric family. Tristram endeavours to write his own autobiography from the moment of his conception. Tistram’s life Tristram’s efforts to write his autobiography

15 Characters?

16 Characters Tristram Shandy: the main character, an anti- hero Walter Shandy: of Shandy Hall, Tristram’s father Mrs Shandy: Tristram’s mother Uncle Toby: Walter’s brother, Tristram’s uncle Yorick: the local parson, a self-portrait of Sterne Dr Slop: a medical doctor

17 Sub-genre?

18 Sub-genre a novel of sentiment in which the main character is sympathised with a comic novel in which the main character is satirised as well as sympathised with: Cervantes, Don Quixote the autobiography of Tristram / Sterne a medical comedy (Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, p. 54) a philosophical novel on sense perception and the nature of understanding (John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy) other genres involved: sermon (86), satire, Bildungsroman (novel of education) and its parody First draft of a novel?

19 Narrator?

20 Narrator First person singular Limited perspective Naive Fusion of viewpoints

21 Style easy, conversational style, addressing th reader (350 times): 5, 7, 9, 15, 19, 20, 27, 31, 32, , 40, 41 Addressing a female readership: 9, 36, 41 Asides: 41 but the reader is constantly reminded that writing is not the same as conversation: 8, 15, 22, 25 and that there is a difference between life and art and that he is reading a book: 41

22 Style (cont) Anecdotes, jokes, parody and self-parody. But also: pedantry, footnotes (41), documentation (42), references, providing evidence. To ‘impose literary form on insignificant experience’

23 Style (cont) But: how can you ‘read’ the typographical devices?  the black page (25), the empty page (157) the marble page (158), the typographical eccentricities (28-29, 74, 426, 332) The reader is invited to fill in the gaps in the narrative or in the description of the various characters. Communicative style: the reader is often involved in the creation of the text. Aim:  to achieve communication with the reader  To determine an unknown readership

24 Organisation loose chronology: from conception 7, ab ovo (7) Progress is digressive rather than linear, often going backwards All ingredients of the novel are there but the order is mixed up Frequent digression from chronology (Cervantes):  chapters 7-12 (mother-midwife-Yorick-midwife-mother)  Chapter 14 p. 27  Chapter 15: the marriage settlement  42: doctors of the Sorbonne  Chapter 22 p. 50  Preface: III. 21  Diagrams:  Missing chapters:

25 Organisation (cont) Everything is connected with everything else Every idea leads to another idea, and the narrator has to explain all those other ideas too to make his narrative clear and to make the context of his story complete.

26 Organisation (cont) Aim: to be exact, and particular, and to be objective and credible. All that serves better communication and better understanding between the writer and the reader. Search for completeness and accuracy: Tristram starts his autobiography with the story of his conception. He goes back in time because the past exists in the present consciousness (Locke), the present consciousness is made up of the impressions received by the mind in the past. (p. 7) the exploration of the nature of truth, search for completeness. When the more accurate you want to be, the more vague and incomprehensible your style will become Leisure (‘in short’)

27 Subject matters Originality: 8 Difference between art and life: Yorick The book as an object: 8, 15, 22, 25, 40, 41, 329 Combination of ideas (Locke): 8 Misfortunes / sympathy: 9, 10, Yorick (ch ), 30, 40, Hobby-horses/eccentric opinions: 12, 38, Character studies: Yorick (ch 10-12), father (ch 16), Uncle Toby (47, ch 25)

28 Sentimentalism hobbyhorses: fixed perspectives through which the characters interpret the world Uncle Toby is interested in warfare and he interprets everything around him according to this perspective. He is interested in the theory and practice of fortification and siege warfare. Walter Shandy: theory of names.

29 Sentimentalism (cont) sympathy between the characters, and also between the writer and the reader. sympathy leads to their cooperation in the creation of the novel. The reader is asked to make his own contribution to the novel. Tristram needs communication because he wants to escape the prison of his private self and he wants to make contact with other people (including the reader).

30 Sentimentalism (cont) Sterne’s aim: ‘to teach readers to love the world and our fellow creatures better than we do’ (A Sentimental Journey).

31 Self-referentiality Chapter 6 Dedication: chapters 8, 9 27, 33, 36 the conception of Tristram leads to the conception of the book. Tristrapaedia (‘The Education of Tristram’), written by Tristram’s father is a brother to Tristram Shandy (the book); it’s a child of the mind of Tristram’s father. With the help of metafictional devices Sterne constantly reminds us that we are reading a book and that life is different from fiction. Metafiction: a fiction about fiction, a key term in Postmodernism.

32 Self-referentiality (cont) Problems:  where to begin the story?  How far do you have to go back in the past?  Where should we start a story to make it complete? The narrator (Tristram) wants to know everything about the circumstances of his conception, birth, and education but he is unable to know every detail. The omniscience of the narrator (and the writer) is questioned. Other question: is there a true story at all? (The main concern of 20th century fiction.)


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