Saturday, March 19, 2005

Sterne on Mind-Body Union

...in the present state we are in, we find such a strong sympathy and union between our souls and bodies, that the one cannot be touched or sensibly affected, without producing some correspondnig emotion in the other.--Nature has assigned a different look, tone of voice, and gesture, peculiar to every passion and affection we are subject to; and, therefore, to argue against this strict correspondence which is held between our souls and bodies,--is disputing against the frame and mechanism of human nature.--We are not angels, but men cloathed with bodies, and, in some measure, governed by our imagination, that we have need of all these external helps which nature has made the interpreters of our thoughts.

Laurence Sterne, Sermon 43 ('The Efficacy of Prayer') in The Sermons of Mr. Yorick (1760).

Sterne, of course, is best known for his work, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, a bizarre and beautiful work of bawdy satire and Christian skepticism, and the most experimental of all experimental novels that ever have been and probably ever will be. In Tristram Shandy, Sterne takes the novel to the very outer limits of what a novel can do, nearly breaking it in the process. Sterne was a village vicar in the Church of England for about twenty-two years; The Sermons of Mr. Yorick are his own (Mr. Yorick is a character in Tristram Shandy, distantly related to Hamlet's Yorick; Sterne applies the name jokingly to himself).

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