Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
This thesis employs the later philosophy of Michel Foucault to think through the unique set of socio-cultural problems that emerged alongside the early novel. I endeavor to explain the development of “biopower” and the concomitant (yet historically grounded) concept of a mass population in order to round off a nettlesome tendency among historicist rise-of-the-novel critics to focus on the creation of a bourgeois individual at this time. To that end, the texts of Anglo-Irish author Laurence Sterne bear out a unique narratorial response to biopower that begins with the ‘body’ of his work: i.e., Shandeism. Signaling the importance of the body through complex philosophical and material engagements with birth, life, and death throughout the eighteenth century, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767) responds to biopolitical institutions that exert power over the eponymous narrator. The family unit and obstetrics figure as important correlates of a power that takes hold of Tristram’s life, and so the text’s joy. In particular, I ask how the novel’s notorious digressions are in fact a serious tactic employed against what Sterne sees as the deleterious consequences of a biopolitical society. We are left with a solemn reflection on how best to resist a government that regulates bodies and does not truly care for them. Sterne’s answer? Laugh a lot.
Metaxatos, Robert, "Laurence Sterne: A Different Way of Approaching the Notion of Life in the Early Novel" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1594.
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