Sexuality/Textuality in Tristram Shandy
Author(s): Dennis W. Allen
Source: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 25, No. 3, Restoration and Eighteenth
Century (Summer, 1985), pp. 651-670
Published by: Rice University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/450501 .
Accessed: 16/12/2012 06:30
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Such a view of language is the basis for the midwives' assumption that rewording a license alters its meaning and extends their powers, and it is only a step from the notion of the correlation of signifier and signified to Walter Shandy's more radical view that names determine the character of the individual, that language can magically control reality. Yet, despite Tristram's assertion that his name may be partially responsible for his misfortunes, Walter's theory is sufficiently idiosyncratic that it receives, at best, only partial assent from the reader. Ultimately, the novel declines such a view of the power of language, stressing instead that control over language gives the individual control over others through persuasion, the use of rhetoric to manipulate reality by working on the passions of men.3 Thus, Tristram notes in an apostrophe which is only partially ironic, it is eloquence which allows men to govern the world, to heat it, cool it, and harden it to their purposes, and the inherent power politics of rhetoric are implicit in Tristram's comically true assertion that the end of disputation may be "more to silence than to convince."
Tristram ties rhetoric to sexuality in general in his discussion of the ArgumentumTripodiumand the