University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Adaptations and Illustrations of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy

Adaptations and Illustrations of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy

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Laurence Sterne – one of the world’s greatest comic writers – quipped that he wrote ‘not to be fed, but to be famous’. His enormously successful book, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, helped Sterne to achieve this ambition: it caused a sensation when it was published in the 1760s and remains in print to this day. Many of Sterne’s earliest readers found his approach to novel-writing highly innovative, even provocative, because of his zany narrative methods, bawdy jokes, haphazard erudition, and the striking visual features he brings into Tristram Shandy: its black, marbled, and blank pages continue to surprise readers who first open the book, as do the many asterisks and dashes which often half-conceal rude words. From the outset Sterne’s readers recorded their opinions about him and his work in remarkably imaginative ways: prose parodies, poems, and plays sit alongside songs, book illustrations, paintings, satirical prints, objects and, most recently, a graphic novel and a film inspired by Tristram Shandy. Adaptation and illustration provide a means by which to measure how Sterne was read and when: ‘Sterneana’ boisterously displays Tristram Shandy’s continuing appeal.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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