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The Male Body in Medicine and Literature$
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Andrew Mangham and Daniel Lea

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940520

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786940520.001.0001

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date: 26 May 2020

‘’Tis My Father’s Fault’

‘’Tis My Father’s Fault’

Tristram Shandy and Paternal Imagination

Chapter:
(p.194) Chapter Eleven ‘’Tis My Father’s Fault’
Source:
The Male Body in Medicine and Literature
Author(s):

Jenifer Buckley

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781786940520.003.0012

Jenifer Buckley commences her analysis of Sterne from the notion, influenced by the findings of Leeuwenhoek, that the thoughts of a father at the point of ejaculation could positively affect the child that was produced. In contrast to the imaginative transit of the mother, which, it was believed, if negative or destructive during the period of pregnancy could result in birth defects, the male imagination bore the responsibility for producing hale and hearty offspring. Sterne’s satirical dismissal of such ‘imaginationist’ theories of reproduction proceeds through Tristram’s father, who bemoans his distraction at the moment of his son’s conception, which, he believes, was responsible for all his child’s failings. The comic calamities of this bullishness belies, for Buckley, a more serious debate about the relative male and female contributions to the domestic sphere, and about the workings of imaginative causation that would soon be more rigorously interrogated by the Romantic movement.

Keywords:   Laurence Sterne, Fatherhood, Tristram Shandy, Conception, Gender

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