Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roby Mitchell: Delight in the Disorder of Things (Secondary Lit Blog Post)

Article Link:

For my secondary article I read DELIGHT IN THE (DIS)ORDER OF THINGS: TRISTRAM SHANDY AND THE DYNAMICS OF GENRE, basically this article is about how the disorder of the narration of the book is due to the disorderly nature of Tristram Shandy himself, the article then leads into how his erratic nature upon closer inspection is fairly predictable once attuned to chaotic aspect of Shandy’s narration. According to the article, “Tristram leads a life that cannot be measured in the regular swing of the pendulum, for the telling of it is filled with digressions, retrograde motions, and "stoppages."His life is one with the vagaries of weather, sudden upheavals of earthquakes, and the perturbations of other natural phenomena seemingly beyond the ken of human understanding and prediction.”(1). The article continues on to describe how at first sight Tristram’s erratic storytelling can be attributed to the interruption of his father's "concentration" when attempting to procreate with his wife due to her asking about the clock at the big moment of truth. The article then goes on to say how this act of interruption had a “butterfly effect” on the rest of Tristram’s Life and caused his whole character to be out of whack. This article then lists how all of the events in the book that can emphasize this point. Examples of this are:

“Intuitively, Tristram senses an underlying order and richness to be discovered if he does not discount the irregularities and seeming disorder that proceed from a reading out of his life. In Volume 1, he realizes that he cannot drive straight through his narrative like a "muleteer": "For, if he [the historiographer] is a man of the least spirit he will have fifty deviations from a straight line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he can no ways avoid" (1:14, 64). Tristram's intellectual honesty prevents him from discounting this divergence between his actual life and the charting of that life. Rather than participate in the fiction of offering a compressed representation of his life, Tristram calculates even the minutiae of his life into an accounting of that life.”(2)

How I looked at this article in conjunction with how I looked at the book was like this: If you look at anything too in depth then you are bound to find meaning to every small minute detail because that is the nature of the mind. I feel that Sterne is saying that analyzing every detail in this way takes up a lot of time and space and is nearly impossible to do simply because while analyzing “the past” in Shandy’s case or every word of this story in the case of the reader; “the present” and the real world interfere.

My question is how much do you think this is based off of Sterne’s life? And if you don’t think any of it is why do you think that?

I personally believe that there is no way one person could sit down and imagine all of these stories and quotes and fun facts and so forth, and so I believe that most of this book is loosely based off of Sterne’s life and that he did to kind of mock eighteenth century novels by saying that if they really want to analyze everything in a book then they can analyze his life if they want to, all the way from his dads…well you know.

Freeman, John. "DELIGHT IN THE (DIS)ORDER OF THINGS: TRISTRAM SHANDY AND THE DYNAMICS OF GENRE." Studies in the Novel 34.2 (2002): 141. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.


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  2. I agree with you that Tristram Shandy may be read as Sterne's autobiography... I mean... not really a biography... but still... I feel like many stories are in relation to the authors' own life. And Shandy's distaste for 18th century readers' mentality, to me, shows why this novel maybe perceived as post-modern maybe even just modern. Something new. And it challenges traditional forms of reading and writing.

  3. After reading this story, having never read anything like it, I looked into Sterne's history as an author. Because, like mentioned above, all of these different anecdotes, as bizarre as they are, must stem from something! I was shocked to find that Stern was actually accused of plagiarism in several different passages from this piece, following his death. Apparently, several of the passages were taken from Robert Burton's "The Anatomy of Melancholy" and Francis Bacon's "Of Death". Some critics say the use of these passages in Sterne's piece were not plagiarism, but rather, a play on these passages with major stylistic and mechanical changes. Others, however, believe that it was strict, blatant stealing. I don't believe that these anecdotes of Sterne's specifically are passages from his own life, but I do think it is hard to ignore his sporadic and retrograde writing style as part of his personality. A writer's writing style is very characteristic of their own personality and habits. After reading Tristram Shandy, I find it hard to believe that Sterne was a subdued person. I imagine his life to be very disorganized and chaotic. The very fact that he challenged many of the boundaries of the eighteenth century novel prove him to be a very creative and artistic individual.