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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century


Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein

What did eighteenth-century men and women think about when they contemplated the future? What was hidden in the «dark bosom of futurity», as Richardson’s Pamela calls it? Do all types of literature that supply a critique of the present conjure up an idealized past or a vision of a better future? Predictions and prophecies – not only astrological but also political ones, utopian models, theological concepts like predestination, progress in the sciences, and, last but not least, life-after-death, both in the form of secular fame and the immortal soul, are among the topics addressed by the essays collected in this volume.


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“LET ME COLLECT MYSELF, AND PURSUE MY JOURNEY”: GENERATION IN LAURENCE STERNE’S TRISTRAM SHANDY Hélène Dachez, Université de Toulouse, UTM, CAS In chapter twenty-eight of volume seven of Tristram Shandy, where Sterne’s eponymous character-narrator relates his flight before death, he explains that his original writing method has led him into an unheard-of situation, “as no traveller ever stood before me.”1 “For I am this moment,” he explains, “walking across the market-place of Auxerre with my father and my uncle Toby, in our way back to dinner – – and I am this moment also entering Lyons with my post-chaise broke into a thousand pieces – – and I am moreover this moment in a handsome pavillion [...] upon the banks of the Garonne” (7.28, 362). Bewildered (or rather pretending to be bewildered) by the superimposition of different places and time scales, Tristram concludes the chapter by the words that give this article its title: “Let me collect myself, and pursue my journey” (7.28, 362). This passage is significant in several respects. First, it draws attention to the fragmentation of the self (“collect myself,” “broke into a thousand pieces”), and reminds the reader of the dangers encountered by the homunculus when it was transfused from Walter Shandy to his wife. The generation process, literally nar- rated “ab Ovo” (1.4, 4), was imperilled by the particularly unseasonable ques- tion asked by Mrs Shandy, because of which “the few animal spirits I was worth in the world, and with which memory, fancy, and quick parts...

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