«Like a Jerkin, and a Jerkin’s Lining»: Body, Mind, Sartorial Metaphorsrs, and Sexual Imagery in Sterne’s «Tristram Shandy»


  • Flavio Gregori Università di Venezia




The article analyses the relationship between body, mind and soul in Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767). Starting from a famous “sartorial” metaphor, in the third book of the novel, according to which the body-mind relationship is akin to that of a jerkin and its lining, the article deals with the metaphors of the body as garments, which allude to human sexual sphere through puns and double-entendres. Notwithstanding the reference to Stoic doctrines contained in the above-mentioned metaphor and elsewhere in the novel, as for instance in the motto from Epictetus placed as an epigraph at its beginning, the relationship between the human being and his/her soul is often expressed in corporeal terms. This relationship, however, is communicated in ambiguous ways: both as the embodiment of the soul and as the spiritual elevation of the body. Perhaps this ambiguity is conquered by Sterne’s very writing that gives body and soul to man’s desires and needs.

Biografia autore

Flavio Gregori, Università di Venezia

Flavio De Gregori is full professor of English literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he is Provost for Cultural activities and relations. His research focuses on the long eighteenth century, with publications on Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, the epic and mock-heroic poetry, the Scriblerian satire and the novel. He has also worked on the relationships between literature and cinema (especially on Stanley Kubrick), literary theory and comparative literature. Recently, he published an edited and commentated Italian version of Sterne's Tristram Shandy in the Meridiani Mondadori (2016).


Flavio Gregori è professore ordinario di Letteratura inglese all’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, dove è Prorettore alle Attività e relazioni culturali di Ateneo. Le sue ricerche si concentrano sul XVIII secolo, con pubblicazioni su Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, la poesia epica ed eroicomica, la satira ’scribleriana' e il romanzo. Ha lavorato inoltre sul rapporto tra letteratura e cinema (specialmente su Stanley Kubrick), sulla teoria letteraria e sulle letterature comparate. Recentemente ha pubblicato un’edizione commentata del Tristram Shandy di Sterne per i Meridiani Mondadori (2016). 


Orcid ID 0000-0001-6410-3162






Representing the Body in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture