University of Leicester
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Libertinism and deism in Tristram Shandy and other writings of Laurence Sterne

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:37 authored by Duncan W. Patrick
This thesis explores and develops themes first outlined in my earlier MA dissertation, Two Sentimental Novels, and it should be noted that the argument set out in either study greatly augments and supports that of the other.;After a brief review of Sterne's life, looking particularly at his familiarity with libertines, the study moves on to consider the long critical tradition that has associated Sterne's work with libertine and deistic ideas. The same themes are described as they occur in a selection of illustrations, including those from an early pornographic edition of Tristram Shandy, and the first section concludes with a brief review of the way Sterne himself has been seen by various critics to be making subtle allusions to unorthodox sources. This section strenuously critiques the notion that Sterne's work can be regarded as an expression of his professed Anglicanism.;The second section first reviews three of Sterne's lesser-known compositions in which such ideas are also strongly noticeable, and after a short preamble on textual strategy, turns at last to Tristram Shandy. The remainder of the study comprises a close reading of the text, particularly those parts of it than deal with life at Shandy Hall. Close attention is paid throughout to chronology which is regarded as the dominant structuring principle, and mapped out fully in an appended table. This section offers a very radical reinterpretation of the text, challenging established ideas while noting many connections with the material explored in the first section. The argument accumulates and is presented as a series of character studies, each of which draws to its own conclusion, rather than towards a conventional concluding chapter.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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