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The ClosetThe Eighteenth-Century Architecture of Intimacy$
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Danielle Bobker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691198231

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691198231.001.0001

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Parson Yorick’s Vis-à-vis

Parson Yorick’s Vis-à-vis

(p.155) 5 Parson Yorick’s Vis-à-vis
The Closet

Danielle Bobker

Princeton University Press

This chapter illustrates the radical strand of eighteenth-century print-cultural rhetoric that rejected the personal room and pictured it as the twisted heart of a stagnant manuscript culture that could only inhibit the modern drive toward sharing feelings and ideas. It considers the original spin that Laurence Sterne put on “A Sentimental Journey,” a semifictional travelogue that he wrote in a flush of pleasure from the international success of his first novel Tristram Shandy. The chapter describes coaches that had sometimes been characterized as “moving closets” since the seventeenth century. It explains how previous writers of the eighteenth century tended to represent enforced mingling in carriages as a source of social anxiety. In Sterne's travelogue, he explained closet and carriage symbolism in order to celebrate a small post-chaise called the vis-à-vis as the ideal vehicle of intimacy between strangers.

Keywords:   print-cultural rhetoric, stagnant manuscript culture, Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey, coaches, intimacy

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