As a novel always deemed eccentric and chaotic, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy has constantly drawn attention of the reading public but has also incurred multitudinous attacks by the critics for its apparent disorderliness. Exteriorly, the novel indeed exhibits chaotic features, whether by its digressions or interludes; however, after a close and meticulous analysis we could actually find harmony and unity within all the confusions and irregularities. Since the author utilizes the eccentricity of the novel to camouflage harmony within, we could assume that a force of some kind is surreptitiously in motion to conduct all the exterior chaos into harmony. Thus my objective in this thesis is to indicate and analyze the “force” which can trample down all the external irrationalities and enables harmony and order to reveal themselves once again. The thesis will analyze the novel in three main aspects. Formally, the digressions of the novel will be mainly investigated. All the seemingly irrelevant opinionative and explanative digressions will be discussed and examined in close analysis. In dealing with digressions, the ideas of the Russian Formalist Victor Shklovsky will be referred to. Reciprocally, Sterne’s demand for his reader’s participation (interaction) is another distinguishing feature of the work. This part of the thesis will examine the balancing force while it exhibits itself when readers act as active agents bestowing meanings through interaction and Wolfgang Iser’s Reader-Response theory will applied. The closing section of the thesis endeavors to analyze the content of the novel by inspecting the discrepancies and exemplify how Sterne attempts to liberate his reader’s imagination. The thesis will end with the analysis of the author’s philosophical attitude towards life as I realign the novel in strict time-order and trace the causality of the events within.
Key words: Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Russian Formalism, reader response, interaction, digressions, harmony, chaos, discrepancy, causality