Gioiella Bruni Roccia


Since its first appearance in 1760, Laurence Sterne’s comic masterpiece, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, has elicited lively reactions and diverse critical responses, mainly provoked by its surprising capacity to ‘borrow’ from other texts. The purpose of this paper is to explore the genesis and the intrinsic nature of this complex phenomenon, in an attempt to show that the intertextual dimension of Sterne’s novel, far from being a mere additional feature, should be regarded as the constitutive principle of the work and its fundamental raison d’être. Put another way, Tristram Shandy is conceived and proposed as a literary conversation made up of many voices, which implies that the reader must be able to recognize and properly interpret intertextual references, going beyond the limits of the story being told. From this perspective, one could say that Laurence Sterne’s intertextual mode of writing is aimed at educating the reader, inasmuch as the narrator invites the reader to enter into a dialogical relationship with other texts. Furthermore, it will be shown how the famous ‘marbled page’, considered by the author to be the enigmatic key and emblem of his work, symbolically evokes the intertextual design underlying The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.


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Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Intertextuality, Plagiarism, Education of the Reader

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