Sterne’s Whimsical Theatres of Language: Orality, Gesture, Literacy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sterne’s Whimsical Theatres of Language

Orality, Gesture, Literacy, 1st Edition

By Alexis Tadié


208 pages

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Hardback: 9780754630760
pub: 2003-03-27
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This study addresses the intricate links between oral culture and literate culture in the eighteenth century. Tadié traces how perceptions and representations of language move from a dominance of the spoken work to a dominance of the written word; and this is echoed in the order of the five chapters on conversation, gesture, theatre, fiction, and print. Tadié offers a reading of Sterne's works, arguing that the use of language lies at the centre of Sterne's art; he approaches the historical dimension of the texts in the context of eighteenth-century theories of language. He brings into focus the heterogeneity of Sterne's texts; and he demonstrates how Sterne's awareness for the variations of language links up with his interest in the form of the book, and with the use of all the potentialities of print. The study broaches the issue of the 'rise of the novel' in the eighteenth century. it refuses the idea of progress, or of slow emergence of the novel in the eighteenth century, which would lead progressively from Defoe to the Fielding-Richardson debate, to a possible view of Sterne as the great ironist of the form of the novel. Tadié asserts that Sterne's writings do not simply address the nature of the novel, but they engage with all the forms of language representation made available by the culture of the age.


’Through its discussion of orality and print culture, this study offers a useful context for reading Sterne's novels.’ The Eighteenth Century Current Bibliography

Table of Contents

Contents: General editor's preface; Introduction; The rule of conversation; The flesh of words; The sight of language; The words of fiction; The paradoxes of the book; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Alexis Tadié was previously Professor of British Literature at the University of Paris 7- Denis Diderot, France, and is now Professor of English Literature, University of Paris Sorbonne, France.

About the Series

Studies in Early Modern English Literature

Studies in Early Modern English Literature
The series focuses on literary writing of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Its objectives are to examine the individuals, trends, and channels of influence of the period between the Renaissance and the rise of Romanticism. During this period the English novel was invented, poetry began to tackle its unsteady relationship with non-literary discourse, and post-Shakespearean drama reinvented itself. Alongside studies of established figures, the series aims to include books on important but lesser-known writers and those who are acknowledged as significant but given slight attention: typically, William Cartwright, James Shirley, John Denham, Edmund Waller, Isaac Watts, Matthew Prior, William D. Avenant, Mark Akenside and John Dyer. Also of particular interest are studies of the development of literary criticism in this period, monographs which deal with the conditions and practicalities of writing including the practices of the publishing trade and financial and social circumstances of writing as a profession and books which give special attention to the relationship between literature and other arts and discourses. Monographs on a variety of writers and topics will be accepted; authors are invited to combine the best traditions of detailed research with astute critical analysis. The use of contemporary theoretical approaches will be acceptable, but every book will be founded primarily upon historical, biographical and textual scholarship.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature