Entertainment Industry and other works

by Ellen Gillingham

Tristram Shandy


Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is an innovative story filled with different accounts from the narrators out of chronological order.  The reader is constantly anticipating explanation, but Tristram interjects, moves backward, and jumps forward.  By separating the order of the narratives, Sterne creates the universal theme that his outwardly unrelated events are all related.  In this way, the novel is similar to an individual’s thought process and opinions.


The film, Tristram Shandy is structured as a movie about a movie about the book and deconstructs cinematic authenticity.  This technique emphasizes the theme of the story being more than it seems.  The plot seems simple, but this is deceptive because the actors were playing dual roles.  The satiric aspects in the film make the audience believe untrue events, which is deceiving, introducing themes of insecurities and chaos.


Michael Winterbottom’s film successfully adapts Sterne’s novel.  One would think that the novel is “unfilmable,” so Winterbottom embraces the impossibility of adaptation.  Many film adaptations fail because they try too hard to be exactly like the novel, but Winterbottom captures it’s spirit.  It is as digressive and satirical as the novel.  He would have faced many problems if he tried to mirror the novel exactly, but by focusing on the unique themes and distinct language, he is able to translate it into a film in the 21st century.  However, the film faced finical challenges, it is important to notes that when writing a book, the author may be as creative as he or she pleases without worrying about how much it would cost to actually produce.  The film did not have a large budget, so it successfully used an inexpensive, but unique pseudo- documentary style.  This filmic aspect carried the satiric themes further into humanism, determination, and modern culture.



This website is a compilation of quotes from the novel that are sorted into different themes and motifs.


This article is a detailed description of an interview between comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan.


This website is an analysis by Tom Price that focuses on the filming techniques in A Cock and Bull Story.

The article by Laura Barton was published in October 2010.  It focuses on an exchange between the two main actors in A Cock and Bull Story, so it is important in understanding the film, especially because the actors play themselves playing actors playing characters.  The meeting sheds insight on the relationship between the two comedians.  Their work and feelings in A Cock and Bull Story inspired a want for another film about perception.


Particularly in how it treats pregnancy and birth, and the way men are portrayed as being both pendantic and ignorant about these subjects, is the film feminist? (Note that the book is very similar to the film in this regard).

The film has feminist qualities, particularly in how it treats pregnancy and birth, and the way men are portrayed as being both pendantic and ignorant about these subjects.  A Cock and Bull Story directed by Michael Winterbottom is a film adaption and uses satiric aspects to share feminist views with the audience.  For instance, when Tristram’s mother is turned down upon wishing that her child be born in a hospital, she is denied and his father’s ignorance could have killed the child.  This scene could be seen as a depiction of Victorian.  However, the satiric undertones highlight the absurdity of Victorian views, so the film has an overall feminist message.  By using satiric scenes, Winterbottom has mocked Victorian views and made a powerful feminist statement.

“So long as a man rides his Hobby-Horse peaceably and quietly along the King’s highway, and neither compels you or me to get up behind him — pray, Sir, what have either you or I to do with it?” – Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Vol. I


4 comments on “Tristram Shandy

  1. rjbuck72
    June 4, 2012

    Thanks Ellen, I appreciated your commentary on the pregnancy/birth scenes in the film. I would agree that it’s relatively obvious that the men in these scenes aren’t meant to be shown in a particularly flattering light (their ignorance on the subject is grating), but I didn’t think about Winterbottom’s other possible motives for the scene. Perhaps you’re correct that he was satirizing certain periods in English history with these depictions of a male-centric society with relative indifference toward the plight of women. I’m curious, aside from the obvious feminist themes in these circumstances, what did you consider to be Victorian about them? I only know the basics of the period (events surrounding art and culture and a little about labor standards) so I might not be able to achieve your perspective. What were some significant parallels were there between misogyny and this era?

    (I should note, of course, that these themes involving the Victorian era would be exclusive to the film as the book precedes this time by a significant margin, as I’m sure you’re aware)

    • emrg10
      June 5, 2012

      I see your points and appreciate your response. I agree that the men are shown as ignorant in this scene. It is interesting to think what Winterbottom may have intended to come across in this scene. Victorian values are often refereed to as stick and would include sexual restrain (prudery), elitism, child labor, and religious faith. I mostly found the dress and vocabulary to be reminiscent of English history. The film and the book are nearly opposite in this sense, the book preceding the time and the film being after. I wonder how Laurence Sterne would view this film.

  2. lordbyrne
    June 8, 2012

    Good analysis of the book, the film, and the issues involved in adaptation. Also good finds in your online research. Your critical analysis argument paragraph was convincing. However I have to correct you on one thing. Tristram Shandy was written and set in the eighteenth century–circa 1760. The Victorian era does not begin until around 1850 and goes to 1900. The values of the two eras were quite different, though in both women were not given much freedom. 10/10. Joseph Byrne

  3. cleainng
    January 25, 2013

    I conceive this internet site has some real fantastic information for everyone :D. “I like work it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” by Jerome K. Jerome.

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This entry was posted on June 2, 2012 by in Adaptation, Film and tagged , , , , .
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