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CS92PROD
Literature, Laughter, Philosophy: Tristram Shandy

ENGL 140
Spring 2017
Section: 01  
Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory

Laurence Sterne's novel, THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENTLEMAN (1759-67) has been described as a literary masterpiece, a hilarious satire, a sentimental tear-jerker, and an obscene abomination. Thomas Jefferson thought it formed "the best course of morality that was ever written"; it was a favorite of Karl Marx and Friedrich Neitzsche; and it was even heralded (in a recent film adaptation) as "a postmodern classic written before there was any modernism to be post about." The book is deeply learned--engaging texts from skeptical philosophy to 18th-century science and from Hamlet to early novels. It is also, indisputably, very odd: Though Tristram is trying to tell the story of his life, he fails to get himself born in the first hundred pages, and the text is full of doodles, blank pages, madcap digressions, and missing chapters. In this course, we will read Tristram Shandy alongside the many, many texts it references, borrows from, and mocks, as well as the many, many texts it has influenced. Throughout, we will take Tristram Shandy as our rich test case for some fundamental theoretical questions, What is literature, and why do we tell stories anyway? How is literature related to philosophy? How do our minds work? What is the meaning of human life--of laughter, learning, sex, and death?
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: DiscussionGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on JUL-21-2019
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