The trouble with comedy, says Richard Lanham, is that no one will leave it alone. Pleasure is never enough. We milk it for wisdom. The wisdom of Lanham's probing examination of Tristram Shandy is that it treats this most playful of English novels with the wit and freshness it deserves.
In his lucid, lively book, Lanham removes Laurence Sterne's comic masterpiece from the heavy-handed approach so often taken in discussions of recent literature - from Thackeray to Camus - and places it back in its true rhetorical and narrative context. Seen in its more natural surroundings, Tristram Shandy shines forth not as a premodernist experiment in fiction, nor as a philosophical disqusition, but as a novel about the central place of pleasure in our lives.
Tristram Shandy: the Games of Pleasure is a beautifully written, economical, and deft introduction to an enduring classic of English literature. It has earned a permanent place in Sterne scholarship.
Among the most exciting of the current crops of books is Richard A. Lanham’s Tristram Shandy: The Games of Pleasure. The approach is new, the style is lively. - Johnsonian News Letter
Considerable attention has been devoted in recent years to the theory of play, and Richard A. Lanhams Tristram Shandy: The Games of Pleasure is an interesting essay applying some of the insights to literary criticism. - Calhoun Winton, Studies in English Literature
It is of the nature of satires on learning to provoke further tomes of solemn commentary that would be more grist to their mill. It is cheering, after the gloomy modern existential readings, to find Tristram Shandy considered sub specie ludi. - Juliet McMaster, Modern Language Quarterly
This is a disturbing book. It is intended to be. Lanham argues for a view of Sterne’s work which is difficult to accept - or dismiss. - Paul Surgi Speck, Southern Humanities Review
Richard Lanham began his teaching career at Dartmouth College, and from 1965 to 1994 taught in the English Department at UCLA, where he is now Professor Emeritus. He has been an NEH Senior Fellow, a Senior Fellow in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Norman Freehling Visiting Professor at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, the 1994 International Scholar at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., and, in 1995, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor at Tulane University. He is the author of The Motives of Eloquence, Literacy and the Survival of Humanism, and eight other books of literary criticism and prose stylistics. His latest book, The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts, was published, in both printed and electronic form, by the University of Chicago Press in 1993.
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