In Volume VI of The Life and Adventures of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne leaves page 147 entirely blank, in order that readers should create for themselves an image in their minds: ‘as like your mistress as you can——as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you’. In 2016, the Laurence Sterne Trust commissioned 147 writers and artists to put their imaginings onto the page, in whatever material form they might choose. The resulting works were exhibited at Shandy Hall, toured to further venues, and auctioned online. In this paper, two of the writers involved consider the importance of Sterne’s original gesture and its ongoing relevance in a digital age, with its emphasis on interactivity. The paper explores how various artists grappled with the complex issues of making manifest their reactions to Sterne’s invitation. It builds on papers relating to two previous Shandy Hall projects interpreting Sterne’s visual gestures within his text: ‘The Black Page’ and ‘Emblem of My Work’.
Re-inflecting Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century gesture