The evolution of Sterne's A Sentimental journey
Owen, William James, Department of English, University of Virginia
Battestin, Martin C., Department of English, University of Virginia
Cohen, Ralph, Department of English, University of Virginia
Vander Meulen, David, Department of English, University of Virginia
Twentieth-century readers have come to doubt the sincerity both of the sentimental scenes and the Christianity in A Sentimental Journey, finding only ridicule in Sterne's narrator's flights of sensibility. The readings of Rufus Putney, Ernest Dilworth, Arthur Hill cash, and Mark Loveridge all question the role that Sterne intended sentimentality and spirituality to play in his final novel: all examine Yorick as a highly unreliable narrator. By exploring the philosophic and historical background of Sterne's novel, I hope to counter these readings of A Sentimental Journey with evidence that Sterne intended his second novel to offer "sensibility" as the solution to the self-enclosure that dominates Tristram Shandy, for through his feelings, Yorick discovers both his kinship with others and his identity, and he concludes that human beings are governed by a higher power than our passions. Vital to this conclusion is Yorick's discovery of his soul, for Sterne's novel can be read as a refutation of the doctrine of materialism, which was gaining popularity in Sterne's century, both in France and in England.
Sterne intended his moral message and his comedy to coexist, just as the human sentimental and sexual imaginations coexist; to read A Sentimental Journey for its humor alone is to miss half of its author's subject matter. By placing Sterne's novel firmly in the context of the time for which it was written, this study will suggest the importance of the philosophic message behind Yorick's narrative and effect a reconsideration of the role of religion in Sterne's novels.
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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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