Download e-book for iPad: Digressions in European Literature: From Cervantes to Sebald by Alexis Grohmann, Caragh Wells (eds.)

By Alexis Grohmann, Caragh Wells (eds.)

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In his first volume, Tristram had boasted to the reader of the sophistication of his narrative machinery. xxii: 80). The ‘master-stroke of [his] digressive skill’ lies in the uniqueness of his method: ‘By this contrivance the machinery of my work is of a species by itself; two contrary motions are introduced into it, and reconciled, which were thought to be at variance with each other. xxii: 80–1). It is progressive in more senses than one. First, Sterne by a sleight of hand moves the story forwards by pretending that in the time it has taken Tristram to recount a bit more, the story itself has moved on a little.

The tendency, since Nietzsche praised his squirrelish liveliness, has been to view his transverse zigzaggery as a cause for celebration. 2 It is no wonder that there is no critical consensus: Sterne’s digressiveness is so various that he differs from himself. 3 Sterne takes both paths; Tristram Shandy is replete with paradoxes and contradictions. He demonstrates that digression is, on the one hand, necessary to narrative and, on the other, that it is a threat to it. If there were no digressions, the narrative would short circuit; there would be no distance between A and Z.

Cotterill (2004) similarly associates digression with femininity. She argues that it allows the writer to withdraw into the self and explore 30 Judith Hawley an interior, feminine, space. 15 Tristram Shandy has more than its fair share of effeminate, emasculated or impotent figures. xxii: 776–7]). Not only do they fail to hit the mark sexually, they frequently fall short verbally and intellectually. xx: 779). Yorick and Walter both defeat themselves in argument, Walter because, although his rhetorical style is violently masculine (‘skirmishing, cutting […] slashing […] thrusting and ripping’), he always defends the most vulnerable point.

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