“Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for a conversation” (87; vol. II, ch. XI), states the narrator Tristram Shandy in Laurence Sterne’s novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Indeed, the distinctive writing style of the novel may make one feel reminded of a real conversation due to the many interruptions and digressions, which are typical of human face-to-face interaction and which occasionally make it more difficult for the reader to follow the storyline.
Following the above depicted statement, Tristram proceeds by maintaining that “the truest respect which you can pay to the reader’s understanding is to halve this matter amicably, and leave him something to imagine,…show more content… This, in my opinion, is imperative since (fictional) communication in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman happens on different narrative levels, of which at least three are, according to Jahn, involved in this interplay (cf. N2.3.1.): the author Laurence Sterne and the reader of the novel on the level of non-fictional communication, the narrator Tristram and his narratees, e.g. Sir, Madam, and Jenny, on the level of fictional mediation, and lastly the characters such as Uncle Toby or Walter Shandy on the level of action. This last level, however, will not be taken into consideration in this paper. A fourth level, which is sometimes added between the level of non-fictional communication and the one of fictional mediation, is the level of implied fictional communication, containing an implied author and an implied reader (cf. Jahn N2.3.2.). Jahn defines the former as “a text's projection of an overarching intratextual authority above the narrator” and the latter as “a text's overall projection of a reader role, superordinate to any narratee“ (ibid.). However, despite the above depicted clear separation of the different stages, the borders between some of the levels are oftentimes blurred: Although a reader of the novel knows that Sterne as the author of the book…show more content… the reader or a narratee like Sir or Madam, and the resulting consequences for the respective addressee in terms of how they are dealt with. In order to achieve this, the analysis will be confined to only three visual elements, namely asterisks, dashes, and gaps because they are the most common ones. Although literary researchers have already examined these particular visual elements, they have not done so in terms of their recipients. For my analysis, it is important to distinguish between the narratee, the implied reader, and the actual reader: According to Jahn, the narratee is the narrator’s fictional addressee (cf. N1.5.); the implied reader, as already mentioned above, is “a text's overall projection of a reader role, superordinate to any narratee“ (N2.3.2.), which means that he is e.g. able to understand the function of all visual elements in the novel and handles them perfectly; Which is, according to Iser, influenced by his former experience (cf. Der Akt des Lesens 66). The actual reader, consequently, does not necessarily have this experience and might struggle during the reading