Primitive modernity


I’ve always been of the opinion that Sterne would have been wonderfully at ease with modern means of communications: his great irony and wit would have made him a great blogger, for sure, but I can also figure him out facebooking or texting, making a large use emoticons. I am convinced that he would have had enjoyed scattering emoticons everywhere across his ” The Life and Opinion of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman”  along with the hyphens, dashes, asterisks, crosses and symbols that characterize his writing style. He soon understood, in fact, that signs had a quick and powerful impact on the mind of readers, and he used plenty of them in the effort of exploring the newest and most effective communicative ways. The reader is so central that very often becomes a character among the characters without a definite script that people Sterne’s novel. We are invited to draw our ideas or share his feelings, whether of joy or sorrow, or furthermore he demands our attention whenever he is about to say something important. We become part of the fictitious world just like sometimes it happens in the stagings of some modern plays. But Sterne was twice modern. He was the first one to focus his attention not only on the life of his protagonist, but on his “opinions”, that is: his mind. He instinctively understood that if he wanted to deal with our mental processes, he should sacrifice the most important pillar of the novel as it had been till then: chronological time. In our mind past, present and future co-exist and our thoughts are mostly linked by association, so Tristram Shandy could not have been a well structured novel. It is actually impossible to draw its plot: the preface is unusually placed in third chapter, he is the ironic judge and spectator of his own conception in the first one, any attempt of narration is interrupted by digressions and associations, he decides to jump from page 146 to 156 on account of missing chapter 24 – he didn’t feel like writing it –  etc. Sterne, therefore, succeeded in representing the chaos of our mind on paper in a rather primitive way, as he didn’t have the support of psychoanalysis thus becoming the forefather of modern novel.I like him. 🙂


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