This essay examines Tristram Shandy in the context of philosophers and thinkers such as Hume, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson, focusing on how the novel represents war, and how it raises questions about sympathetic responses to war. I will argue that Sterne is concerned with the challenges of representing war, which he explores in studying Uncle Toby and Trim’s miniature fortifications, as well as the story of Le Fever, and the various sympathetic reactions, some of which are self-promotional, to death. Sterne places two modes of representing war in counterpoint — a “distancing” mode that entails objective reporting, and a mode that involves an individual, sympathetic narrative — to raise questions about the emotion, beauty, and impact of war representations. I will also argue that Sterne is responding to changes in the way war was publicly imagined.

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