The responsiveness of Sterne's writing to a wide range of approaches and topics of recent and ongoing interest-among them narrative, interpretation, intertextuality, gender, the body, sentimentalism, and print culture-has ensured a wealth of recent activity in the journals. Two specialist periodicals, the Shandean and Eighteenth-Century Fiction, have become major repositories for innovative work on Sterne since their foundation in the late 1980s, and important new readings continue to appear in the established journals. The proliferation of periodical articles means, in turn, access to the full range of this material is now a problem in all but the largest institutions. This situation creates a major opportunity for a volume designed to reprint the best essays of the last fifteen years. The book is divided into five sections. Section one looks at one of the most contentious recent debates about Tristram Shandy, on the issue of generic definition, and is designed to help students orient themselves in their encounters with this convention-breaking text in terms of prior traditions and intertexts.
Section two's essays on print culture represent a major new area of interest in literary study as a whole. In this context "print culture" denotes not only Sterne's experimental deformation of typographical resources in Tristram Shandy (the black, marbled, and blank pages being the famous instances) but also his engagement with a literary marketplace in which reviewers and other readers could influence the text as it serially emerged. Section three focuses on topics about the body in Sterne. These essays, related closely to the essays in section four, go beyond run of the mill "body in literature" criticism by linking the topic to other issues of current interest: narrative, language, and scientific discourse and/or medical practices in the period. Political readings, another growth area in recent years, is the subject of the final, fifth section.