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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a detailed reassessment of the relationship between Sterne’s fiction and the mid-century novel. Tristram Shandy, it argues, is best understood in the context of the ‘new species of fiction’ as it developed in the wake of Fielding’s and Richardson’s seminal successes. Sterne’s masterpiece is, in part, a burlesque of conventions of the tradition of comic ‘Biography’ inaugurated by Joseph Andrews. It is also a comic novel in its own right in which Sterne draws on and develops germs of ideas, situations, and narrative strategies that he found in novels of the 1750s. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Sterne’s much-debated ‘sentimentalism’, arguing that while he engages with contemporary debates about the social virtues and the ethical dimension of feeling, A Sentimental Journey stands out from other novels of the 1760s in ways which support his sense of it as ‘something new, quite out of the beaten track’.

Keywords: Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, 1750s, A Sentimental Journey, ‘biographical’ fiction, Fielding, Richardson, sentimentalism

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