A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

The Unfulfilled Climax: Eroticism, Sentimentalism and Narrative Form in Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey

In the “Narrative Desire” chapter of his larger work, Reading for Plot, author Peter Brooks discusses the different modes of desire that exist within a reader. He argues that these desires are the forces of momentum brought to a text that in fact structure plot and carry/create the thrust of the discourse. “Desire,” he writes, “is always there at the start of a narrative, often in a state of initial arousal, often having reached a state of intensity such that movement must be created, action undertaken, and change begun” (Brooks 38). Desire, therefore, initiates narrative. But, desire also devours the discourse it creates, this narrative “diminishing as it realizes itself, leading to an end that is the consummation…of its sense making” ( 52). “The paradox of narrative,” then, is that narrative desire is ultimately…desire for the end” (52). In other words, one reads only to reach an inevitable conclusion. At the same time, however, one is never quite able to arrive or articulate this “terminus,” for the end contains both the meaning and the destruction of the narrative (Brooks 58). Therefore, the “end” is substituted by way of metaphor, by an absence that allows the driving desire behind narrative to continue pushing the...

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