Despite the immense popularity of Laurence Sterne’s work during his lifetime, his contribution to the novel form and experimentalism has only been acknowledged
since his death. His contemporaries Richardson and Goldsmith denounced his archaic methods and took offence at his playful irreverence but his oddity is
never accidental nor perverse; it is the strategy of an inventive, thoughtful, comic talent. Tristram Shandy, perhaps his best loved work, defies convention at every turn, distributing narrative content across a bafflingly idiosyncratic time-scheme interrupted by digressions, authorial comments and interferences with the printed fabric of the book. This comically fragmented story line is a reaction against the linear narratives of Fielding and Richardson; aiming instead at a realistic impressionism, a shape determined by the association of ideas. This study critiques Sterne’s work in the light of modern literary theory, questioning whether he was an artist before his time.
Manfred Pfister is Professor of English Literature at the Free University, Berlin. He has lectured at the Universities of Munich and Passau, as well as being guest Professor at the Universities of Sussex and East Anglia. Dr Pfister has written and edited books and essays on a wide range of subjects, notably The Theory and Analysis of Drama (CUP, 1988) and The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Italies of British Travellers (Rodopi, 1996), and is currently engaged in anthologising and translating 17th to 19th century English poetry.
216 × 138 mm
January 11, 2001
Writers and their Work