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Irony in 18th century British Literature

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Western intellectual thought .
  3. The central problem in the mind-body relation.
  4. Sexuality within Tristram Shandy.
  5. One aspects of the mind-body problem - the circular correlation between self-perception and world-perception.
  6. The characters within Tristram Shandy.
  7. Italian satirist Daniele Luttazzi's ideas on satire and the human body.

Philosophers as early as Plato have made distinctions between the mind and body, or reason and material perception, resulting in a dualism of being that has seeped into all aspects of Western Civilization. The cycle of perception and judgment of exterior forms has caused an anxiety prevalent in society that has been fought by intellectual and revolutionary countercultures. Tristram Shandy is arguably written in the spirit of these countercultures that seek to break apart the tradition of suppressing the ?animal? physicality of humanity. Using comedy as the weapon that disarms the reader, Sterne tells the story of characters struggling with communication and self-perception amidst the chronic theme of the organic versus the mechanical. Three primary aspects in which Sterne addresses the mind-body paradox are ribaldry and the role of sex, the self-perception/ world-perception of the characters, and their tragic attempts to transcend the body.

[...] He holds an interesting relationship with the reader in that he frequently projects certain attitudes upon them so that he can defend himself. These instances often occur before especially obvious sexual analogies, where he insists that he speaks earnestly, rather that the reader has a dirty mind, and he begs them guard against the temptations and suggestions of the devil,? (book III, XXXI, p.173). Of course, it is this denial that makes it clear that the subject is sexual, and the prevalence of these instances make Tristram's sexual repression undeniable. [...]


[...] It demonstrates through characterization and theme a parable of the philosophical experiences of the western world, and creates an almost tragic irony in the character's all too familiar attempts to transcend the body. The body-mind problem has been an unsolvable paradox by many of philosophy's greatest minds. Though Tristram Shandy doesn't define an answer to the problem, it demonstrates that one should not deal with the contradiction by ignoring the body nor be ruled entirely by it. The humour of the novel is that the absurdity of the characters and their ways of dealing with life is identifiable. [...]


[...] In seeking this other reality to transcend his bodily entrapment, however, Toby seems to have given up the possibility of true, adult relations, as his passion carries him away mentally and leaves him unable to communicate well even with his dear brother. Walter denies not his body, per se, but rather the organic, animal aspects of his life. His hobby-horsical obsession is for logical thought, creating categories for aspects of life that allow them to appear organized, controlled. His tragic attempt at transcending the natural is of course, his insistence at having Dr. [...]

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