Monday, October 10, 2011

Secondary Post: Tristram Shandy

Article Link:

The article I read, Sterne and the Narrative of Determinateness, is an article that I found particularly interesting. The article alone pointed out many arguments/ critiques about the intentions of Sterne while writing this novel which made it very interesting to see how it tied back into the characters presented within. Some of the main arguments of this article was the fact that Sterne was using experiences and the mind through the characters to keep the perspectives on life and the narratives real and clear throughout the novel. For example, the article states that "if the point of Tristram Shandy is clear, then the work must be significantly divorced from life (1)." By establishing this, I think what is being said is that the reasons presented by Tristram Shandy are based off fact and his appearance or perception and the reasoning that support these claims to be very defined, thus it separates ones thoughts from their personal beliefs because individuals are being clouded by the nature of many other fiction writings.

The article continues to make comparisons between appearance and reality and how we as humans can't always refrain from believing the truth versus confusing that same reality with our own perception of desires. The article continues to state that Sterne is fascinated by the art of storytelling which is why many times narratives when being written become our truths even though they may not be the real truth. For example, Tristram Shandy states that, "I have imposed this penance upon the lady, neither out of wantonness or cruelty, but from the best of motives (chapter xx. 52)." By stating that this was done because of ones motives, shows how sometimes the inner thoughts or in this case motives an individual has can become the truth of which one writes their narratives.

It is also interesting to see how the author of this article continuously uses the word muddle when making comparisons between the writings of Sterne and his arguments. This word is repeated at every instance a new argument is mentioned. Thus, it got a little confusing when looking at the arguments being made from a big perspective on whose claims were really confused or blurred- the authors or Sterne's. In addition the the word muddle constantly being used I think it is also interesting to observe the title of the article, Sterne and the Narrative of Determinateness. I think that the overall point the author was trying to show was how the narratives of Tristram Shandy and the arguments presented were very determined in a sense that the narratives present itself as being based off facts whereas, in fact, these facts are misguided as false presumptions of truths that alter perspectives for its readers. We are determining whether or not the narratives can claim to be true.

Thus, in your opinion do you think that the article is presenting clear arguments when talking about the misconceptions of Sterne and his narratives? Is Tristram Shandy really just contradicting story to everything that is being said in the narratives? On page 257, he states that "was it not that my OPINIONS will be the death of me." Do you think that this statement is true? In what way could his opinions, his experiences, and beliefs be the end of him based on the arguments made in the article and from his narratives?

New, Melvy. "Sterne and the Narrative of Determinatenes." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 5th ser. 4.4 (1992). Web. 08 Oct. 2011. .


  1. At some times I think this writer is writing more about reading and the mind than about Sterne, but "Tristram Shandy" is a good place to start with the subject of reading. I like how he says that readers acknowledge that the novel is deliberately a mess and try to explain it in sensible formulas. It's as though Sterne observed the mental rituals of novel-reading and deliberately wrote something that would turn the practice against itself.
    I read (part of) an interesting book this summer called "The Believing Brain" about evolutionary psychology and the habit of human brains to craft meaningful narratives even with respect to virtually meaningless stimuli. I thought about it when I read Tristram talking about his conception, and I wonder what more the book would have had to say about literature if I had actually finished it.

  2. I agree with Jesse in that Tristram Shandy acknowledges the readers and is actually trying to mess with their/our minds. He creates a mess of words that he has created in his own mind based on his opinions. I feel that there's a fine line between reality and what we want to be reality. His mishmash of thoughts poured onto the paper force the reader to have thoughts all over the place. Even when Shandy talks about his conception is such a bizarre topic to discuss and no one actually knows the "real" story behind their conception (or I hope not.. ick!). This is an example of how Tristram Shandy confuses reality with his thoughts of reality.