Laurence Sterne’s experimental novel Tristram Shandy puzzled and delighted its early readers, and still excites similar feelings in contemporary recipients. Early receptions unhesitatingly associated the work with the modern novel, a genre establishing itself in Sterne’s lifetime. Virginia Woolf even used Sterne’s works for her own campaign and associates it with stream-of-consciousness writing, despite Sterne’s 18th-century context. A lot of interpretations of this “Weltbuch” (Wolff 1995) try to pin down the essence of it – and fail.

It is a delight to read Sterne, and to look at the book, and to follow the narrator Tristram on his absurd digressions on noses and shoe buckles and achieve a state of happy confusion. In this seminar, we will examine Tristram Shandy and its background vith a view to becoming able to access any difficult literature in general. This will, I hope, be achieved by applying a variety of reading techniques and literary theories over the semester, which will prove a great tool kit for you in the future.