Tristram Shandy and the Pointless Novel (LIT4766.02)

Paul La Farge

“Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last,” Samuel Johnson wrote in 1776, a decade after Laurence Sterne’s novel was published. Tristram Shandy is indeed an odd book: an autobiographical novel which takes hundreds of pages to get to the moment of its own narrator’s birth; a story which is forever interrupting itself with digressions and typographical oddities, and which admits, in the end, to its own pointlessness. But Dr. Johnson was wrong: Sterne’s novel has lasted. In this class, we’ll read Tristram Shandy and a few of its literary descendants, and consider the aesthetics and politics of pointlessness, distraction, inattentiveness, and discontinuity. Works by Sterne, Diderot, Trollope, and others.

Delivery Method: Hybrid in-person and remote, with faculty remote
Prerequisites: Interested students should a critical writing sample and a statement of interest to paul.lafarge@gmail.com by May 26, 2020.
Corequisites: Students are required to attend all Literature Evenings and Poetry at Bennington events, held most Wednesdays at 7pm.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 1:40PM-5:20PM (2nd seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature
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