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Sentiment and SociabilityThe Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century$
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John Mullan

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122524

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122524.001.0001

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Laurence Sterne and the ‘Sociality’ of the Novel

Laurence Sterne and the ‘Sociality’ of the Novel

Chapter:
(p.147) 4 Laurence Sterne and the ‘Sociality’ of the Novel
Source:
Sentiment and Sociability
Author(s):

John Mullan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122524.003.0005

The anonymous pamphlet A Funeral Discourse, Occasioned by the Much Lamented Death of Mr Yorick, published in 1761, was but one of the many spoofs and rejoinders which attached themselves to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy throughout the 1760s and 1770s. If we are to recover Sterne's ‘sentimentalism’, we should look at the reception and circulation of his writings, and if we do this we can follow the lead of the pamphleteer. Sterne's fiction is notoriously self-conscious about the modes of a novel's coherence — about the powers of a narrator to convince, to beguile, and to satisfy. It is attentive to its ‘sociality’. Sterne's characters are attached to the world by the metaphors and allusions on which they rely, and which protect them against death, discord, and disaster. They are not mad, first because they are attached to each other by sympathy, and second because they are innocents whose limited ways with words are displayed to a reader who has to be sophisticated to comprehend their transparent instincts.

Keywords:   Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, sentimentalism, sociality, metaphors, allusions, sympathy

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