On Thomas Hardy: Late Essays and Earlier by Peter Widdowson

By Peter Widdowson

The writer, a number one and influential critic of Thomas Hardy, brings jointly for the 1st time essays representing either his significant severe paintings during the last fifteen years and 3 solely new items. This quantity permits readers to check the strength of Widdowson's severe polemic in undispersed shape. Readable, engaged and, doubtless, frequently infuriating, it is a e-book for all those that nonetheless regard Hardy as 'our contemporary'.

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What I am immediately forced to ask, therefore, is how 'Hardy' got here; which texts constitute 'Hardy'; what their place in the social process may be; how those texts have been, and are, read; how they might be read and why. I want, then, to offer a brief critiography of two of the main constitutive discourses of 'Hardy the Novelist': criticism and education, although in passing I will mention other social determinants, such as publication and reproduction in the press, on radio, television and film, which materially affect a text's availability and, through intertextuality, the ways in which it is read.

His 'improbabilism' draws attention to, precisely, the illusion of truth in humanist realism. ); a contingent, 'senseless' universe in which individuals are out of control of the social forces which exploit and victimize them; characters who are not unified human subjects, but alienated, inconsistent clusters of 'images' of the social and psychological 'circumstances' which construct them. Much of this, of course, is what is written out of the 'Hardy' constituted by criticism and education: 'improbabilism', 'pessimism'; 'minor novels'.

In my sample, which includes almost complete runs of examination papers from the JMB and Cambridge since World War I, and from the AEB, London and Oxford and Cambridge selectively, and then intensively from the mid-1970s, 'Hardy' is centrally constructed around FMC, MC and RN- although until the end of the 1950s, Under the Greenwood Tree, The Trumpet-Major and The Woodlanders also appeared fairly regularly. Tess is not set before 1961, 25 and then only intermittently until the end of the 1970s when it becomes extremely popular; and jude, significantly, only appears to have been set twice to date at A-level (AEB 1977/8).

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