This was a rather dense article describing some "Focaultian" and some anti-Enlightenment perspectives on the novel of Tristram Shandy.
The first part of the article claims that the novel presents a worldview that is divorced or apart from Enlightenment. The author calls that worldview, "linear, [and] clockwork regularity of Newtonianism" and he sees this novel as a "fracturing" of this kind discourse, common to the Enlightenment era (2). The article explains that Tristram is going against life as concrete, easily divisible hard details in favor of entropy; entropy meaning the idea of physical systems as a gradual decline of order into disorder and lacking predictability.
An interesting point the article made was the way in which Sterne was the way in which he uses every miniscule, drawn out detail, and the reason for the drawn 3 volumes. The article claims that Sterne goes against "classical scientists' arbitrary discounting of small influences and the large-scale effects they can have within dynamic systems" (3). Linearity is impossible in the novel form; Sterne is making an assertion that the very nature of the novel form cries out for the very nature of life itself. By providing the small details, he gives importance to those things in affecting the bigger picture.
A way he continues to challenge what are "essentialist" Newtonian perspectives, is the way he treats his birth. The book takes so long in getting to Tristram's actual birth as a way of disputing the conventions produced by the homunculus. The author writes of the homonculus, "no longer fully formed and predetermined, this homunculus loses its Newtonian particulateness as a self-contained 'information packet' only needing unfolding and expansion; rather, it is opened out into a whole field of relationships, its identity only determinable in a constantly widening web of information" (6). The reason for all these minute details is to show that this essentialist view of the homonculus are trite. It goes against the idea of sperm as simply holding a tiny human and fully formed. The interconnected way in which the details lead up to his birth show the way in which we are not fully formed human beings here. The article calls them different "scales" or "web of information" (6-8). There is chaos in birth. We are not fully formed or going along predetermined paths and these details are way of showing that human beings are not definable creatures, stuck on a linear, clockwork type event line. The more details added, the more chaos, and the more true to life Tristram makes this novel.
From this big picture perspective, I believe that this is in keeping with the way in which the 18th century novel is a way in which a ideology or idea can be pushed. I always saw the novel as decidedly anti-religion and anti-essentialist. It is, however, didactic, not in a religious sense, but it makes some clear ideological assertions. He is using the novel form as a tool for teaching or presenting certain ideology, which I see as somewhat moral; he's got an agenda.
I apologize if the ideas seem half-formed; I'm not sure if I've fully grasped some of the assertions made in the article, but there you go.
My question would be to what degree do you agree with this assertion? Are the minute details, and the drawn out discourse of his birth a way of going against the scientific views of the time period? If so, how does it affect the way in which we view this novel in a discourse with 18th century literature of the time? Is it in keeping with those ideas or not?
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. 13 Oct. 2011.