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Title: The language of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy
Author: Sinfield, Mark David
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1972
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This thesis is intended neither as a linguistic description of a body of text nor as a study of prose style but as an attempt to study the language of a novel within the disciplines and interests of literary criticism. Language, though the 'medium' of all novels, is not claimed as the only or even the first concern of novel criticism: rather, the details of language must always be studied in their place in the literary structure. The thesis therefore examines the language of Tristram Shandy initially under the three novelistic categories of commentary, character and narration, adding two further chapters on the language of sex and on satire, rhetoric and sentiment -- matters which cut across the boundaries of the earlier chapters. Tristram's various digressions are seen as an extension of the concept of authorial commentary, and 'narration' is used to include all the telling and describing in the novel; a chapter is devoted to the way the narration and the commentary are woven together. Sterne's themes and preoccupations emerge from the study of the language and provide further ways of organizing the detailed analyses. The dialogue reflects the characters' difficulties with rational communication and the narrative typically describes them in awkward or absurd postures and movements; Tristram's own style partly reveals and partly celebrates a freedom from rigid constraints and orderliness; sex spreads its influence throughout the novel as a major antagonist of reason; and 'gravity', Sterne's name for the hypocrisy which hides behind moral earnestness and scholarly obscurity, is attacked with the forces of innuendo, parody, wit and rhetoric. His distrust of rationality and assertion of feeling and imagination make Sterne in one sense a 'sentimentalist', but analysis of his 'sentimental' stories shows him subverting his own pathos. He always confronts us with the complex 'puzzled skein' of human experience, working through a prose which is appropriately devious and flexible and which always has the essential Shandean quality of provoking laughter.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Literature