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Title: Contexts of Sterne's sermons
Author: Gow, J. S.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2004
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As soon as the reading public realized that the much-enjoyed first volumes of Tristram Shandy were written by a priest and, furthermore, that this person was publishing sermons under the name of Hamlet’s exhumed jester, the sincereity of Sterne towards his vocation was questioned – if not flatly denied. This immediate reticence and indignation has expanded and persisted. The stumbling blocks are two: bawdy fiction is not fitting from a priest; and, the sermons, full of plagiarism, lack evangelical heat. The aim of this dissertation is to review the contexts of mid-eighteenth century Anglican homiletics with reference to Sterne’s oeuvres. Once we understand what was expected from the pulpit in content and style, we are equipped to observe ways in which Sterne strove to meet those expectations. To date no published work has responsibility considered his much-alleged plagiarism. This is rectified, and the evidence unveils an interested and very capable sermon-writer. We then consider Sterne’s fictions. That, alongside ribaldry, the first volumes of Tristram contain an entire sermon has led some to conclude Sterne was mocking religion. On the contrary, tracing themes of the homilies through both novels we come to appreciate an intended reciprocity between the works. Of interest in this regard to Sterne’s engagement with fideistic scepticism, and the manner in which he developed his parabolic contribution to this tradition of faithful, learned ignorance. I suggest that, far from the buffoonery of a snickering prankster, Sterne’s fiction represents the elements of his orthodox sermons within a provocative and curiously accessible mode. As such, his canon has integrity. He lusted earnestly, and endeavoured carefully that these little books might stand instead of many bigger books; and his hope was that they would do us good.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available