The author of Tristram Shandy (1759-67) is often seen as an anachronism - a belated exponent of learned-wit satire whose kinship is with Montaigne, or a proto-modernist whose narrative pyrotechnics anticipate Joyce. Yet to many contemporaries Sterne's writing was emphatically of its immediate time, a voguish compound of all things modern that seemed to typify, if not indeed constitute, a 'Shandy-Age'. In this historicizing study, Thomas Keymer demonstrates the self-conscious imbrication of Tristram Shandy in the diverse literary culture of its extended moment. Not only absorbing but also updating Swift's Tale of a Tub, Sterne's text turns the satirical resources of Scriblerian writing on the post-Scriblerian literary marketplace, and above all on that quintessentially modern genre, the novel itself. For all its anticipation of later trends, his play on narrative representation, linguistic indeterminacy, the unruliness of reading and the materiality of text turns out to be firmly grounded in the conventions and tropes of mid-eighteenth-century fiction.
Through the mechanisms of improvisatory serialization, Sterne could also engage with other new texts and trends as they continued to emerge, including 'Nonsense Club' satire, the Ossianic vogue, and debates about the Seven Years War.
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(224mm x 144mm x 18mm)
Oxford University Press
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Author Biography - Thomas Keymer
Thomas Keymer is Elmore Fellow and Tutor in English at St Anne's College, Oxford and Lecturer in English Language and Literature, University of Oxford. He is the author of Richardson's Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader (CUP 1992); editor of Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey and Other Writings (Everyman 1994), Henry Fielding's The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon (Penguin 1996); and co-editor of the six volumes of The Pamela Controversy: Criticisms and Adaptations of Samuel Richardson's Pamela, 1740-1750 (Pickering and Chatto 2001), Samuel Richardson's Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (World's Classics 2001), Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews and Shamela (World's Classics 1999), and volume 1 of Prefaces, Postscripts, and Related Writings of Samuel Richardson (Pickering and Chatto 1998).