1st Edition

Shandean Psychoanalysis Tristram Shandy, Madness and Trauma

By Françoise Davoine Copyright 2023
    302 Pages
    by Routledge

    302 Pages
    by Routledge

    This unique book examines the psychoanalysis of madness and trauma through an extended discussion of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, the provocative eighteenth-century novel by Laurence Sterne.

    Françoise Davoine explores the entire novel—each of her chapters corresponding to a volume of the novel—viewing it through a psychoanalytic lens: the monologue by Tristram’s embryo in the opening chapter, the war traumas of Captain Toby and Corporal Trim and several key themes, including confinement, love and history. In parallel to her own analytic comments on these inventions, Françoise Davoine follows the writing of the novel itself, keeping the reader constantly aware that Sterne’s endeavour is a race against death—his own. Davoine points out that time acts as a major character in the novel, constantly upsetting chronology, and bringing about the same impasses as the psychoanalysis of madness and trauma does.

    The book presents Shandean wit as a valuable tool in therapeutic work. Shandean Psychoanalysis will be of great interest to psychoanalysts and to academics and students engaged in psychoanalytic studies, literary studies and trauma-related studies.

    1: The embryo’s "I wish" 

    2: Psychotherapy of Uncle Toby’s war traumas and the reading of a sermon on perversion

    3: Theatre of fools

    4: Social unrest in Strasburg

    5: Confinement 

    6: Epitaph

    7: Journey to France

    8: The politics of love and slavery

     9: No to perversion 


    Françoise Davoine is a Psychoanalyst based in France. She is former Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Movements, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, where she and Jean-Max Gaudillière conducted a weekly seminar on 'Madness and the Social Link' for 40 years. She presents internationally and is the author of many books and articles.

    'As a practicing psychoanalyst, the author of this book opens the rigorously social work of trauma psychoanalysis up to the realm of fiction, so often wrongly dismissed as escapist, and makes the relationship between the two domains mutual, in a most productive way. She demonstrates the point—for social reality—of literature, as she had already done in her two volumes edition of the seminars of Jean-Max Gaudillière. In this book on Sterne’s masterpiece, laughter is as important as grief, pursuits of love as weighty as slavery and other forms of violence, and above all, the past, she demonstrates, incisively intervenes in the present. No other author that I know of is so skilled and refined in reading—both the literary text and the psyche of traumatized people. This book enriches the life of its readers on many levels'. — Mieke Bal, Cultural Analyst and video artist

    'The literary wit of Sterne and the unique analytic wit of Davoine go head-to-head in this remarkable book, which teaches us to read in Sterne’s humor and style the workings of "Shandean psychoanalysis", a singular treatment of historical trauma and a "mad" challenge to the totalitarian politics of all centuries. Sterne takes his place, in Davoine’s surprising reading, within a dazzling array of literary, philosophical and psychoanalytic writers who "don the fool’s cap" to offer new resources for reinscribing the lost catastrophes of history and for resisting varying forms of political perversion. Davoine weaves into her reading of the book her own personal history growing up in war as well as her innovative development of a psychoanalysis of madness, one that draws on and illuminates the literary therapeutics of Sterne’s writing. Tristram Shandy ultimately provides for her, in its profound insight into history and madness, a "memory of the future" that anticipates the traumas—and the treatments—of the 20th and 21st centuries, challenging our doctrinal approaches to the understanding of catastrophic history and the treatment of historically and politically produced trauma. In Davoine’s extraordinary reading, Tristram Shandy finally speaks to our contemporary 21st century crises while offering unexpected resources, in its rich "art of storytelling," for responding to the powers of erasure and denial and for enabling the emergence of a new kind of political subject'. — Cathy Caruth, Professor of English, Cornell University

    'Francoise Davoine is a highly respected expert in the clinical psychoanalysis of madness; she is also a respected authority in regard to the application of psychoanalytic theory to world literature, and the corollary illumination of trauma within fiction (Don Quixote, and now, Tristram Shandy). Davoine’s coverage of her subject is exhaustive and wide-ranging, drawing upon a multitude of philosophic and literary sources. Her approach is highly creative, engaging, and high-spirited—filled with surprising insights and associations. Shandean Psychoanalysis is a revelatory reinterpretation of Sterne’s novelistic masterpiece, with profound implications for the theory and treatment of trauma and other extreme states'. — James E. Gorney, PhD

    'Françoise Davoine, is a highly regarded and respected psychoanalyst and author who has written at the forefront of psychoanalysis involving extreme states and literature. She is the author of numerous books in this field which are much quoted and used in both areas of expertise. In a previous book on Don Quixote, she rattled the cage of psychoanalysis, to use a description from Bion, allowing us to see through literary fiction how we can understand psychological trauma. This book takes Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and further rattles the cage, introducing through the rhythm of her writing more psychoanalytic animals, allowing them to appear from her own history and Sterne's history/fiction, teaching us about forgotten wars, trauma and what it is to be a therapist/therapon and stand with those who have suffered from madness'. — Alfred Gillham, MSc Consultant Clinical Psychologist