This volume examines the religious culture in which Sterne wrote his novels and sermons. Using passages from Sterne's work as starting points, the book demonstrates that the experience of life in country parishes forms an important context for the novels. The book draws on modern church history and eighteenth-century sources to show that the eighteenth-century Church of England constituted a strong social influence and was far from being the moribund and somnolent entity many literary studies have assumed. Beginning by addressing Sterne's ecclesiastical family background, it presents a general discussion of parish organizations and liturgical practices, preaching, religious controversy, women's roles in the Church, charitable activities, and anti-Catholicism. It also makes specific reference to Sterne's work, including an examination of the reception of Sterne's first volumes of sermons. The book concludes with a discussion of Tristram
Shandy illuminated by this historical and cultural material. Martha F. Bowden is an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.
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