Why do you think Carlyle called his book Sartor Resartus rather than, say, The Clothes Philosophy of Diogenes Teufelsdrockh? Why is the tailor "reclothed" rather than "clothed"?
What do you make of the genre of this work? Is it an essay? A biography? An autobiography? A philosophical treatise? A parody or spoof? What are some advantages of blending these genres?
What is the relationship between the “editor,” Herr Hofrath Heuschrecke, and Professor Teufelsdrockh? Who is Oliver Yorke, and what relationship does he have to the others?
Can you separate the “frame” from the inner content? What seems the point of a constantly dissolving or ironically presented set of editorial voices and signals?
Which seems the dominant voice, and does this vary? Are the editor and Professor always in (alleged) agreement?
What do you make of some of the names, such as Diogenes, Teufelsdrockh, Heuschrecke, and Weissnichtwo? Oliver Yorke? What is the point of the etymologies and translations when given?
This work is of course influenced by German philosophy, especially the works of Johann Fichte and Friedrich Schelling. How is Germanic thought presented throughout—that is, what are described as its desirable and undesirable features? Why does the “editor” believe that German philosophy requires his mediation?
What advantages may there have been for Carlyle in presenting his ideas in the garb of another culture and language? For example, had he spoken as a secularized former Scottish Calvinist, would his words have had less effect?
What are some effects of the book’s three part structure? What different topics are discussed in each section? Do the divisions give a sense of progression?
What is meant by a “clothes philosophy”? What are some useful aspects of this metaphor?
What are some important features of Carlyle’s style and mode of proceeding? What seem to be the intentions behind the work's allusive, non-linear style?
Would you describe Carlyle's style as excessive, and if so, what effect does this have? Does it compel belief, confusion, or both?
Are there ways in which Carlyle's rhetorical address may be influenced by the sermonic mode?
What are some instances of Carlyle's use of metaphors and allusions throughout Sartor? (e. g., chemical mixtures [I-1, p. 7); heavens and earth a vesture [I-11, p. 55]; arch from Hell to earth [I-11, p. 59]; living garment and web of time [I-11, p. 159])
How would you describe Carlyle’s humor? (use of irony, double meanings, invective, indirection) What is its effect on the tone?
What do you think of the passage in which he says that young men should be hid under barrels between the ages of 19 and 25? [II-4, p. 99]; or alternately, "With Stupidity and sound Digestion, man may front much?" [II-6, p. 123]
What does the speaker/Teufelsdrockh give as a reason for youthful sarcasm? For communicating through a mask? (II-4, p. 99] What do you make of his account of someone attacking the critic, as a worm, but falling "shattered and supine" [veiled aggression, II-4, p. 99]
Are there cases in which it's hard to tell whether the speaker intends irony, humor or invective? [I-3, p. 84]
Which aspects of identity does the narrator/Teufelsdrockh emphasize in the first section? (simultaneity, aliveness, force, connectedness [I-8, p. 40, I-11, p. 53]
What seems Carlyle’s view of language? Would a view of language as metaphor have been common at the time? (Part I, chap. 11) The possibility of multiple meanings? Of the importance of naming? [II-1, p. 66]
What does he believe is the role of the reader in creating meaning? (final paragraph of book I)
What do you make of the 6 paper bags containing Teufelsdrockh's life remains?
What is the importance of the fact that the editor cannot trace Teufelsdrockh’s birth date or many other specifics of his early and later life?
What is significant about the fact that he arrives in a basket, carried by a stranger? [II-1, p. 63] That he longs for an absent father?
What are some stages of his life? (romantic youth, love of nature, learns from the check of necessity, meditates and absorbs the spectacle of life, a position of passivity, I-2, p. 76]
What seem Carlyle’s views on education? How are these based on practices of the time? (mentions need to education all, even peasants; evils of reliance on rote-memory and facts, "dryasdust," II-3, p. 79-0]] [II-4, p. 172: "That there should one Man die ignorant who had capacity for Knowledge, this I call a tragedy. . . ."]
Why will he not reveal the name of his university? [II-3, p. 83--it's the worst of universities!]
Why does Teufelsdrockh not continue in a career of law? (II-4, p. 93)
What seems the context for his enunciation of the doctrine of self-help? (II-3, 87)
What view does he express of conventional religion? ("first must the dead Letter of Religion own itself dead, and drop piecemal into dust, if the living Spirit of Religion, freed from this its charnel-house, is to arise on us, newborn of heaven, and with new healing under its wings," II-3, 87-88)
What are some problems encountered in beginning his career? (II-4)
What literary reference is made in alluding to the "sorrows of Teufelsdrockh" (II-6) What are some parallels between this account and Goethe's novel?
What do you make of the fact that Teufelsdrockh spends much of his life as a Wanderer? (becomes an Everyman figure)
What is flawed about a life of thought? (end of man is action, II-6, p. 119) What seems the result of Teufelsdorckh's unhappy thoughts? (loses hope and religious faith, II-7, p. 123; all a grim desert; no answer in universe to his thoughts but an echo, 123)
What are important features of Teufelsdrockh's aborted romance with Blumine? Was the failure of inter-class romance a common nineteenth-century theme? (Compare "Locksley Hall")
What is "The Everlasting No"? (II-7, pp. 124 ff., life a mill of death) How should we respond to this recognition/fear? (defiance, II-7, p. 127; compare "In Memoriam") What results from this defiance? (becomes a man, II-7, p. 128)
What is the "Center of Indifference"? (II-7) Why is it necessary to endure this stage before affirming "The Everlasting Yea"? (II-9)
What attitudes characterize this "Everlasting Yea"? For example, what is seen as the source of human unhappiness? (man's unhappiness arises from greatness, II-9, p. 143)
What lies beyond happiness? (II-9, pp. 144-45, 149) "the Fraction of Life can be increased in value not so much by increasing your Numerator as by lessening your Denominator" (144)
Why do you think George Fox is especially singled out for having made a suit of leather? (III-1, p. 157)
In general, do you find any cultural preferences behind Carlyle's choice of which "heroes" to include in his selective history?
How does the narrator/speaker describe symbols, and how do you think these may differ from metaphors? [III-3, pp. 165, 167-69, III-7, p. 190)
What remarks does he make on the relationship between fact and fiction? (II-10, pp. 152-53)
What critique does Professor Teufelsdrockh make of war? (II-8, p. 132) How does this theme relate to the "center of indifference"?
Is his skepticism about the purposes and effects of war consistent with his other references to military heroes? To a society of peace? (III-6, p. 186)
What critique of society does Teufelsdrockh make in "Helotage"? (III-4) How does he address the issue of class difference? (sarcastically in Swiftian proclamation that it would be cheaper to shoot the poor as game; comparison of humans to horses, III-4, pp. 172-73)
What are some basic flaws of modern (commercial) society? (isolation, III-5, p. 174), syncophantism (III-6, p. 180) What forces rule society? (chaos, III-7, pp. 184-85) What change is needed? (III-7, p. 177, rebirth of society)
What significance is attached to the “dandiacal body”? Is the latter common? What types of literature does he associate with the dandy? (silverfork novels, III-10, p. 208)
What humor is used to deflate the ideal of gentlemanly fashion? (III-10, pp. 209-10)
What type of body is contrasted with "the dandiacal body"? ("Poor-Slaves," III-10, p. 208) What social outcome of these vastly differently clad persons does the speaker fear?
What is “natural supernaturalism,” and why should we value it? (everlasting now, III-8, pp. 195, 197; sense of man as divine hero)
How may this doctrine be seen as a reaction to utilitarianism? (dislikes excessive zeal for facts, logic and science)
In what sense may teachers and poets be compared with tailors? (laborers, III-4, p. 171; metaphorical tailors, III-11, p. 218)
How does the book end? What is the significance of the fact that Teufelsdrockh has reportedly left Germany, and may even have absconded to London? Is the uncertainty significant?
What seem to be Carlyle's political views, and how may these be associated with Sartor's philosophical claims? What do you make of his preference for kings as authentic persons, in contrast to a world of appearances (III-7, p. 186) ?
What are his views on the ballot-box? (III-7, p. 187) Parliament? Great men? (III-8, p. 134) How will change come about?
What is the "editor"'s final assessment of Teufelsdrockh? Is he judged as an intellect or a man? (III-12, p. 220)
Why do you think the final sentence ends with an allusion to “a state of quarrel” between the editor and his readers?
What are some ways in which the style and claims of Sartor reflect tenets of romanticism? Are there some differences?
Do its statements echo any concerns of Hegel or anticipate those of Marx and other nineteenth-century social reformers?
In particular, Carlyle and Ruskin have been often linked. Do you see parallels between them? (sense of interconnectedness with the past, III-7, p. 185; remarks on laborer as craftsman, gulf between different spheres/classes of society) What are some major contrasts?
Do the statements and tone of Sartor Resartus suggest any instances of 20th century criticism (e. g. by the Frankfurt School or post-structuralists)?
Why do you think several generations of young Englishmen and even Englishwomen found this book so inspiring—as W. H. Hudson wrote in a 1908 introduction to the Everyman edition, “as a maker of men, Carlyle’s appeal to us is as great as ever."
What effect may Carlyle's arguably logical/political contraditions have had on the reception of this book? (difficult to find clear references, something for everyone)
Can you find similarities between Carlyle’s style and that of Dickens? Are there passages or themes in Sartor which anticipate or suggest works by later writers such as Tennyson's "In Memoriam," Gerard Manley Hopkins's "The Wreck of the Deutschland" (force which binds, final view of hero), or Olive Schreiner's The Story of An African Farm (Waldo's Stranger)?
Page numbers are to the Everyman edition, 1908, 1965.