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Title: War and the body in the work of Laurence Sterne
Author: Cotton, Christopher Adrian
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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The military theme epitomizes Tristram Shandy’s intolerance of systematic interpretation. Sterne recognizes the heterogeneity of war and is preoccupied with various military strategies, technologies, and paradigms, all of which have specific implications. Sterne renders the spatial and physical properties of these elements of war by displaying their effects on the body. He also manipulates narrative form to express this spatiality. In Part 1, an interplay between generic and military developments is theorized and the unique suitability of the novel for rendering modern warfare is postulated. The numerous wars mentioned in Tristram Shandy are then surveyed. Besides the provision of historical detail, the arrangement of this material, its tendency to reflect issues pertaining to Sterne’s conceptual treatment of war, is examined. Part 2 concerns Sterne’s handling of the aspects of war that are a product of rationalism. In Tristram Shandy, Sterne demonstrates how the body is often restrained and victimized in the course of attempts to assimilate it to military systems. An implicit linkage between rationalism itself and bellicosity is apparent in Walter Shandy’s theories and projects. Sterne also the matrixes the corollaries of military rationalism, in particular the development of long-range projectile warfare and the action of military discipline and mechanization. The counter-rational aspects of war are explored in Part 3. Sterne regularly depicts war as chaotic and labyrinthine. The amorphous parts of war are more congenial to the body than the rationalistic facets, admitting of its fluidity and reanimating it. Tristram’s narrative is also informed by principles of nonlinear warfare. In conclusion, the effect of the dissipation of the pronounced physical and spatial presence of war is considered. In A Sentimental Journey, Sterne presents a series of fragile veterans and suggests, through Yorick, a restitution of the virtues of chivalry and gallantry that had been largely negated by modern war.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available