Tristram Shandy

Tristram Shandy


  1. Analysis of the Book: The most prevalent theme of this novel is how an author has the ultimate ability to control the timeline of their story, the events highlighted, and the overall momentum of the plot and the way in which the story is presented to the audience. The main character, Tristram Shandy gives the audience his opinion in a lot of cases and skips from present day events back to his conception and childhood due to his authorial rights. His ability to skip to events before he was even born shows the authorial power he possesses and believes he is able to use to make a believable story and lot. 



  1. Analysis of the Film:

The almost unfilmable movie about a movie about a book about writing a book was made to show how each of the modern day representations of the 18th century novel’s characters interact. With British humor and subtle bickering, such as the Coogan insisting that his shoes made him taller than his co-star, because he was the lead, British humor permeates the film throughout. The focus is on Coogan who plays Shandy, though through screen time and wit the other characters force their way into the spotlight, if only for a moment. The film seems to know that it is almost impossible to recreate a book that has little streamlined plot, and though British humor makes fun of this.



  1. Analysis of the adaptation:

The plot changes from Tristram Shandy writing an autobiographical book to making a movie about a book that is almost un-filmable, though digressions of the characters are still very present. The movie keeps the absurdity alive with quotes from Coogan like “This is a postmodern novel before there was any modernism to be post about.” The movie about a movie about a book about writing a book changes the focus of the stream of consciousness of Shandy to a broader focus of all the characters and their quirks. The change in visuality and the broader focus keeps the plot different enough to not repeat the book, while retaining some of the intricacies of the novel where it delves into characters personal opinions.


4: Online research on the film:

This critique was a little on the absurd side, but they make a point to note that the plot itself was absurd since Shandy set out to tell his autobiographic story on the first page, but did not even get close until the end of the novel. It also make an interesting point that it can be interpreted as a postmodern-classic or a backward looking novel based on learned wit.

This source focuses on the novel becoming a meta text and hypertext which forces the reader to participate in the conversation since Shandy has conversations with the reader by breaking the fourth wall. 

This source from The University of Georgia focuses on how Shandy jumps around through the story to disassociate the audience from Shandy as a reliable narrator. The source also highlights the realization of Shandy that he is unreliable, as he rethinks his ability to understand the world around him and himself as a person. The stream of consciousness effect that Shandy was going for falls flat of its full potential, though it does open up this literary technique to authors to experiment with since it was one of the first to implement this. 




  1. Critical Argument: 

Each author has the ability to tell their story as they choose and allows for the creation of diversity among plot lines whether they be in novels or movies, however the defense that any stroke of inspiration or random impulse to add information into a text can confuse the audience to the point of losing interest. Shandy jumps through his own life events ranging from the present to his childhood and to even before he was born, digressing into details that do not progress the plot and overall shift the focus from the making of the movie about Shandy’s life which was introduced as the Shandy’s reason for telling the story. While some of these random associations build a bridge to other thoughts of Shandy and can give more insight on who he is as a person, they also digress into rants or opinions that do not help the plot and add to the futility he feels latter on. The power Shandy possesses is further complicated as he is a creation of Sterne, which, if merely being an author gives them the power being believable, than everything Tristram says would be doubly believable because Sterne as an author is standing behind what Tristram and an author is saying as this plot was widely hailed as the portrait of an author. This is complicated through the stream of consciousness effect that allows the audience to know everything Tristram is saying, which ultimately leads to his conclusion that the audience fell into “a cock and bull story.”


  1. With the numerous power/relation dynamic changes that arise from changing Prospero to Prospera, I had never thought to compare the minor details regarding their political downfall – and I agree that Prospera “was more overtly wronged,” and that her “cheap” downfall certainly exerts a more complex take on the gender politics throughout the film. “The denial of prominency and power that Prospera underwent” definitely embeds in her a different kind of vengeance than that of Prospero’s that is also more effectively understood on screen by the audience. Whereas Prospera’s different take on vengeance certainly allows for a “more accessible way to understand Shakespeare,” I do not think that Taynor’s “woman substitution” limits the “further understanding” of Shakespeare to that of the female audience; the female gender change complicates the original “drama” of the play so that the “dramas” on film still retain “the Shakespeare” and become more relatable to society circa now and not just the women. The major themes in both the play and the film encompass societal issues of love, betrayal, lust, envy, and power that have always been and always will be timelessly relatable.

  2. From my research of the book, I didn’t get that the theme was about the ability to control the narrative. I thought the theme was more related to building associations and opinions while satizising opinions of others (by criticizing novels). I was also a little confused by your actual argument. Are you arguing that the plot of the BOOK is not advancing, or the plot of the MOVIE (or both)? I think the plot in both advances; just because they seem random (or as their creators may say, “inventive”) does not mean that the events are inartistic.

  3. Good job on the book, film, and adaptation analysis. The online research was interesting and apropos. The argument paragraph was a little fuzzy, beginning with the thesis statement (the first sentence) which is more like a second sentence in an argument paragraph. You needed a statement that encapsulates the whole paragraph. Something like:

    Randomness can make a creative text more inventive, but it also presents the danger of losing audience interest.

    And while it’s fine to do your argument paragraph on the text, it would be even better if you also considered the film.

    10/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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