In This Article Laurence Sterne

  • Introduction
  • Editions
  • Bibliographies of 20th-Century Critical Works
  • Reception History
  • Introductory Overviews
  • Journals
  • Critical Anthologies
  • Biographies
  • A Sentimental Journey
  • The Sermons
  • Minor Works
  • Borrowings and Influences
  • Sentimentality
  • The Body and Medicine
  • Philosophy
  • Religion and Faith
  • Politics
  • War
  • Sexual Politics
  • Celebrity Culture
  • Illustration

British and Irish Literature Laurence Sterne
by
Paul Goring
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0056

Introduction

Within just weeks of the appearance of the first installment of Tristram Shandy in London in 1760, this eccentric work of fiction and its eccentric author had become talking points among the literati and the public at large. How, readers wondered, should they respond to this odd yet entertaining pseudo-autobiography, and given the amount of bawdry it contains, was it appropriate that an Anglican clergyman should have authored such a thing? Laurence Sterne, by his own admission, “wrote not to be fed, but to be famous.” He achieved that goal in his own time, but he would also achieve a more lasting renown, as Tristram Shandy and his second major fiction, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, continued to intrigue critics and readers up into the present time. A result of this interest has been the generation of an enormous body of commentary and criticism, with many studies probing fundamental questions that resist easy answers and others opening up new questions either by virtue of a fresh approach or by honing in on a previously unscrutinized detail in Sterne’s writing. In fact, a type of scholarly approach to Sterne’s work began early, notably with John Ferriar’s Illustrations of Sterne (1798, Ferriar 1798, cited in Borrowings and Influences), in which Ferriar presented his tracing of numerous sources used by Sterne—a project undertaken largely to expose Sterne as a plagiarist. Since then the enmeshment of Sterne’s writing in a forest of other works has provided fodder for numerous hunts after sources or influences; at the same time forward-looking critics have asked whether the real interest lies not in where Sterne’s work came from but rather in the modernist and postmodernist techniques and tendencies it seems to preempt. Others have been more interested in the moral, ethical, and religious questions raised by Sterne’s writing. Was he a sentimentalist or a satirist of sentimentality? Does his fiction continue the work of his preliterary career as a clergyman and author of sermons and purvey a Christian ethic? Meanwhile, Sterne has found a home within almost every area of literary theory, not least, given his ludic approach to storytelling, within narratology. This bibliography provides a way into that mass of criticism; while not comprehensive, it highlights the major features on the map of contemporary criticism and attempts to signpost the way for those beginning an investigation of the work that has grown up around a fascinating and often puzzling author.

Editions

Sterne has been very well served by modern editors and by one modern editor in particular, Melvyn New, who has presided over the Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne. This series, ongoing since 1978, provides the best texts for Sterne’s major works and for his letters, and it consistently offers generous, thought-provoking annotation. Serious Sterne scholars should use the Florida volumes. As an editor, New does not aspire to be neutral, and users of the volumes will soon identify the agendas that guide editorial policy and the directions of the introductions and the annotations. For Tristram Shandy, the two volumes of Sterne 1978 provide the text, while New, et al. 1984 offers explanatory notes. Sterne 1997 is based on the Florida edition and is more portable and affordable than its parent but does not provide the same level of annotation. Sterne 2002 should be used for A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy; readers interested in the extant manuscripts of A Sentimental Journey should supplement this volume with the earlier scholarly edition, Sterne 1967. Sterne 2002 also includes his Continuation of the Bramine’s Journal, a work that was long known as The Journal to Eliza and is sometimes still referred to by that title. The two volumes of Sterne 1996 present his forty-five sermons and Melvyn New’s extensive annotations to them. Readers interested in Sterne’s correspondence should use Sterne 2009, which is the standard edition of the letters. See also Minor Works.

  • New, Melvyn, with Richard A. Davies, and W. G. Day. The Life and Opinion of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Vol. 3, The Notes. Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    A massive and magnificent collection of annotations to Tristram Shandy, consultation of which is essential for serious Sterne scholarship. Illuminates Sterne’s borrowings from and references to a wealth of works and presents the earlier scholarship on these intertextual connections. Biographical threads and many other matters are also glossed.

  • Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. Edited by Gardner D. Stout Jr. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

    E-mail Citation »

    The standard scholarly edition of A Sentimental Journey until it was superseded by Sterne 2002. The carefully prepared text is supported with full presentation of variants and detailed description of the manuscripts. The annotation is thorough but occasionally prim.

  • Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Vol. 1–2, The Text. Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne. Edited by Melvyn New and Joan New. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1978.

    E-mail Citation »

    The standard scholarly edition of Tristram Shandy. A scrupulously edited text presented clean, without note numbers or annotations interfering with the text itself. For annotations, see New, et al. 1984. Includes a bibliographical description by Kenneth Monkman of first and lifetime editions.

  • Sterne, Laurence. The Sermons of Laurence Sterne: The Text. Edited by Melvyn New. Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

    E-mail Citation »

    See also The Sermons of Laurence Sterne: The Notes, Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne 5. The scholarly edition of Sterne’s forty-five published sermons and an immense collection of annotations, many of them revealing Sterne’s numerous debts to and borrowings from earlier authors of sermons. An aim of the edition is to assert Sterne’s conventionality as an Anglican sermonist.

  • Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Edited by Melvyn New and Joan New. London: Penguin, 1997.

    E-mail Citation »

    Based on the scholarly Florida edition and including a digest of the notes to the Florida edition, this is the best trade edition of Tristram Shandy.

  • Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy and Continuation of the Bramine’s Journal: The Text and Notes. Edited by Melvyn New and W. G. Day. Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne 6. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.

    E-mail Citation »

    The standard scholarly edition of Sterne’s second major fiction, paired here with the private journal—widely known prior to this edition as The Journal to Eliza—which Sterne was keeping in the period of A Sentimental Journey’s composition. Manuscript scholars should also consult Sterne 1967.

  • Sterne, Laurence. The Letters: Part 1, 1739–1764. Edited by Melvyn New and Peter De Voogd. Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne 7. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    See also The Letters: Part 2, 1765–1768, Florida Edition of the Works of Laurence Sterne 8. Standard scholarly edition of Sterne’s letters with exemplary editing and annotation.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down