The Marbled Page — "Motly Emblem of My Work": Laurence Sterne and Multimodal Literacy

Paul MUNDEN, Fiona Edmonds Dobrijevich

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In 2011 the Laurence Sterne Trust commissioned 169 writers and artists to interpret Sterne’s famous marbled page (p169 of Vol III of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman), which he called the “motly emblem of my work”. No two marbled pages are ever the same, thereby ensuring that each copy of the work is unique, emblematic of its endlessly varied readership. The list of contributors included those who took part in The Black Page exhibition two years earlier. Each was invited to propose a fellow practitioner, thereby allowing chance into the commissioning process, just as chance defines marbling itself. Each created a single page that was in some way emblematic of their practice. The work produced —and the manner of its exhibition—encouraged its multimodal audience to become practitioners themselves, thereby following Sterne’s own wish "that it may be a lesson to the world, 'to let people tell their stories their own way.'" (TS Vol IX, Chapter 25) In this paper, one pair of contributors considers the diversity achieved by the project, its educational value, and how writing and visual art often reach for each other in moments of particular experiment and intensity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalThe International Journal of Arts Theory and History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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