Welcome to the course blog!
I think that Sterne is a very interesting author; our discussions on his novel have prompted a lot of thought about my prior post regarding "moral lessons". In class, you mentioned that many famous historians and even one of our past presidents has referred to his work as the most endearing, thoughtful, and greatest moral teachers of literary history. Although I have trouble taking away a direct message from the book, I think that for eighteenth century readers, it was a very exciting piece that prompted a lot of change in the way literature is viewed. I would be interested to look into reasons why such prominent figures find this book to be a greater "moral teacher" than other eighteenth century novels. I struggled a lot with this text, as it does't quite fit my reading style, but I think it is such an important book to eighteenth century literature and I am glad I was exposed to it!
This book is five bucks I won't get back when I return my books at the end of the semester. I don't think I could bring myself to let go of this one. One of the things that makes it interesting, and also makes it difficult to understand, is the difference between the tone and the content. Shandy's narrative voice is so casual--almost every sentence comes off as an afterthought, or a throw-away comment. Yet he is so sincere at the same time. I have to read most paragraphs twice to get past the tone to the content. Perhaps the greatest moral lesson of the book is that it trains the reader to be thoughtful.
I agree with Jesse in that I actually don't think I'll be returning this one to the bookstore. I want to read the entire thing because it's honestly unlike anything I've been assigned to read for school. Like Professor Wilcox pointed out, it was much easier to understand when being read out loud, and during my reading at home, sometimes I found myself doing just that. As for the content, I respected the fact that this was a book that made you work for your enjoyment and understanding. Sometimes the footnotes weren't even enough to yield full comprehension of what Sterne was saying, and maybe that's the point. If the entire history of Tristram Shandy culminated in the unfortunate amours between Toby and Widow Wadman, what is there even to say about the purpose of everything that came before? I'm not sure that the novel is making any particular grand sweeping statement about humanity. I think it is more of a satire about Sterne's contemporaries who attempted to do so and created long, dense "conduct manuals" of sorts that could have been summed up in a few pages. Tristram Shandy is essentially 500 pages of nothing -- and I say that in the fondest, most respectful way possible. There are those moments of social commentary (such as Tom & the Moorish girl we talked about on Thursday) but I see the novel more as an experiment in the form and content of English literature.
I completely agree with Hannah in that I find Tristram Shandy to be a lot of nothing but still a really interesting and enlightening book. While I will still probably return this book (I need the money), I have grown much more affectionate and understanding of it in our discussions. It's nice to see a novel that is humorous, moralizing, and completely removes all sense of what I though a novel should be like. I love the way it pushes the boundaries, yet still has something to say. I would have liked it to be a little more understandable, but it was still a really good addition to what we have read so far.
Some novels need to be reread after a span of time has passed to understand and appreciate them more fully than a single reading permits. Tristram Shandy certainly fits that bill, and I'm worried that I feel the need to read it in its entirety at least twice, though I doubt that I'll be able to muster the patience needed to spread it out over the decade which you recommended such an undertaking to span when we read the first section of it.
I find the book (and much of the 18th century fiction we read for that matter) kind of hypocritical. I get the idea of "moralizing," but they really seem to glorify sexual wordplay a little too much. For the most part, Shandy and Shamela are two of the most entertaining reads from this semester - but they are rather hypocritical if you want to consider them texts founded on some sort of moral standpoint. The innuendos are hilarious to me as a 21st century reader, but the syllabus has completely changed my opinion of the 18th century. I find myself wondering what the 18th century really was like based on the texts of this course. Overall, I won't be returning this book either (Female American, on the other hand...), but it is also a little hard to read.
Tristram Shandy is like many of the other 18th century novels I've read in this class and in my English career. I really like how this novel and many others are creative, artistic, and broad in their fiction. They play with a lot of themes and forms of writing in order to make the same old story or the same moral different from the rest. I think I'm going to hold on to this book, just like Keena and others have said because it is interesting to make the comparison of books that are generally the same story but are produced in a different way.