As Samuel Johnson noticed, there has always been something ‘odd’ about
Tristram Shandy – a literary autobiography that begins with the narrator’s conception and ends before his birth. However, while time has been recognized as being central to the narrative strategies of
Tristram Shandy, the role of time in the novel has rarely been examined in any substantive detail. This book offers the first extended consideration of the representation of time in
Tristram Shandy. Its central argument is that the ‘oddness’ of the novel’s
formal and typographical experimentation, fragmentation of narrative sequence, destabilization of the autobiographical subject and emphasis on textual materiality derives from a radical conception of temporality. In showing how
Tristram Shandy conceives of temporality as an alterity that disrupts both subjectivity and representation, this study not only provides a theoretical commentary on the novel’s temporal experimentation, but also demonstrates the continuing importance of
Tristram Shandy for the critical theory of fiction.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt/M., New York, Oxford, Wien, 2003. 228 pp.
Contents: The novel as form: time, allegory and representation – Tristram Shandy’s interruption of typographical, empirical
and formal space – The straight line of narrative, subjective temporalities and the time of writing – Locke and Sterne: subjectivity,
wit and reflexivity – Paternity, plagiarism and inheritance: the matter of writing – Irony and the difference of temporality.