Laurence Sterne´s Tristram Shandy
Response Paper: “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy” as a forerunner to the (post)modernist novels of the 20th century
Laurence Sterne´s “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy” as a forerunner to the (post)modernist novels of the 20th century Although Laurence Sterne´s Tristram Shandy was published between 1759-67 and therefore belongs to the Age of Reason and Sensibility, it reveals a lot of unconventional, literary constructions that can be later noticed as typical features within works of modernist literature. As David Pierce clearly points out in his introduction to Laurence Sterne in Modernism and Postmodernism, “Sterne´s work crisscrosses the whole field of” (8) classical literature. Not only his “deliberate refusal to construct a ´goahead plot´ “ ( Pierce 8 ), or the visual effects he plays with concerning blank pages, his unusual use of asterisks or dashes and other graphical figures, but also his uncommon way of dealing with time and reality contrast him from authors of his own time. Standard works of the eighteenth century, represented by master novelists like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding or Samuel Richardson fictionally attempt to give the effect of realism ( cf. Abrams 228 ). Either by writing epistolary novels1, or such novels which give a realistic description of the values and experiences of the rising Middle Class, authors tried to hide their imaginary origin. This might have been influenced by the Puritan rejection of any invented world that coexisted besides God´s own world. The question of reality plays an important role, since Sterne´s play with time is evident in the chronological order of the various stories. The book begins with the protagonist´s conception, who is not born until the third volume, but finally baptized in the fourth volume. Furthermore 5-year-old Tristram is circumcised by a falling sash window in the fifth volume. In the following sixth, eighth and ninth volumes,...
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