Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Raymond F. Hilliard

Second Advisor

Dr. Terryl Givens

Third Advisor

Dr. Marcia E. Whitehead


Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy, has often been treated as an eighteenth-century anomaly and criticized for its inconsistencies. Using the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, the twentieth-century Russian theorist, Tristram Shandy can be explicated as a model of discursive self-definition. Bakhtin's model of psychological development (a process he calls "assimilation") can be applied to Tristram's fictional autobiography and used to explain the process taking place as Tristram creates his own distinctive voice organizing the heteroglossia of his world. In the novel Tristram displays the discourse of his world and applies it to new situations: a process that ultimately results in victory as Tristram successfully acquires control of his own language and uses this language to express himself, redefine himself, and ultimately to perpetuate himself. Looking at Tristram Shandy in light of Bakhtin's theories illuminates a number of problematic issues within the novel and effectively places it within the intellectual and novelistic traditions of the eighteenth-century.