Blog Response— Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

tristram shandy

1. Analysis of the Book

“Tristram Shandy”by Laurence Stern is a satire novel about the life and opinions of Tristram Shandy. Stern describes Tristram’s life and eighteen century culture humorously as the events of Tristram’s life unfolds. The major themes throughout the novel are self-consciousness, procrastination, and satire. It focuses on the digression of the narrator from one topic to another. The novel also draws on the reader’s opinions as a way to make the novel engaging.

2. Analysis of the Film

Similar to the novel, Michael Winterbottom’s version of “Tristram Shandy” focuses on the satire, self-consciousness, procrastination, and the out-of-time experience that the novel brings out. The film’s self-consciousness is the film-within-a-film concept, which drives the film. The digression of the film is explored through the idea that no one in the film seem certain about what the main theme of the film should be, so it jumps between the romance and action aspects. If one layer omits one aspect that the novel has, that aspect would appear in another layer of the film that would not necessarily connect to the novel. It mocks itself and shows the problems filmmakers have while attempting to film movies.

3. Analysis of the Adaptation

Throughout the film, many people point out that the novel is unfilmable because of its length. While the film succeeds in capturing the novel’s spirit, it uses the novel’s themes in proving that the novel is hard to be adapted into a film. The film mocks the process of filmmaking and turning a literary work into a film. The frustration in the novel is mirrored in the film by the layers of film-within-a-film concept. One layer shows the “Tristram Shandy” film, but another layer shows the problems that the cast and crew members have because of the film.

4. Online Research on the Film

Noel Murray’s review of “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” comments on how the film did not add anything unique to the film-within-a-film concept and complains that Coogan’s character is unappealing.
http://www.avclub.com/review/tristram-shandy-a-cock-and-bull-story-4117

David Edelstein’s review calls the film a “hall of mirrors” that does not necessarily tease the viewers, but shows a different perspective of filmmaking.
http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/15631/

Robert Ebert’s review of the film comments on the similarities that “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” had with other films that have the film-within-a-film perspective. It pokes fun at the digression aspect of the film by also jumping from one topic to another. Much like the novel represents procrastination, the film uses it to show that the novel is unfilmable by the other layers of the film. Also, Ebert praises the film’s aim of showing that life on a movie set can create close relationships between cast and crew members.
http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/tristram-shandy-a-cock-and-bull-story-2006

5. Critical Argument Paragraph

The film, “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” successfully converts the major themes of the novel to the film even though the themes are not used in the same way. While the satire, self-consciousness, and procrastination are used to move the narration along in the novel, Winterbottom uses the same themes to develop the layers of the film that are not the fictional Tristram Shandy film in it. The film mocks its process of filming and constantly reminds the viewer of the film-within-a-film idea. The procrastination is in the problem of choosing the major plot of the film and the process of filming. However, the romance and action parts that are cut from the fictional film layer are found in the behind-the-scenes layer of the film. Winterbottom successfully takes the major themes of the novel by Laurence Stern and uses them to show the process of filming a movie that was deemed unfilmable.

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2 thoughts on “Blog Response— Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

  1. Maayan,

    I absolute agree that the film is depreciating and mocking which makes it a fabulous (and hilarious!) adaptations of Sterne’s novel as the narrative also seems to employ that self-depreciating humor. As many have deemed that Sterne’s novel is a “book about writing a book” the fact that Winterbottom’s adapts this novel and translates it into an expose of sorts about film making really fits well with this theme. Furthermore, unlike Murray I believe that Coogan’s character is absolute spectacular in the film.

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  2. Decent analysis of the book, film, and adaptation – though you could have dug a little deeper. Your online research links are OK, but you need to steer clear of reviews at this point. Try looking in scholarly journals. Some ideas on that score:

    https://engl329b.wordpress.com/research/

    You have some good insights in your critical argument paragraph, but over all its vague and a little confusing. You have an ingeresting thesis buried in there: though Winterbottom’s film seems to mock the very idea of doing a faithful adaptation of Tristram Shandy, he is in fact quite faithful, particularly in the ways in which he plays with the satire, self-consciousness, and procrastination of the original author. That’s something that you could develop into a strong, though short, argument.

    9/10. Joseph Byrne. ENGL329B.

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