The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy
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Thomas Hardy: last of the Victorians, or first of the moderns? Great novelist, but supreme poet? Pre-eminent commentator on a culture in transition? So many questions surround the key figures in the English literary canon, but most books focus on one aspect of an author's life or work, or limit themselves to a single critical approach. The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy is part of a series of comprehensive, user-friendly introductions which: offer basic information on an author's life, contexts, and works; outline the major critical issues surrounding the author's works, from the time they were written to the present; leave judgements up to you, by explaining the full range of often very different critical views and interpretations; and offer guides to further reading in each area discussed. This series has a broad focus but one very clear aim: to equip readers with all the knowledge they need to make their own new readings of crucial literary texts.
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About the Author
Geoffrey Harvey is the author of The Romantic Tradition in Modern English Poetry (1986). He is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Reading.
Songsters’ (9 April 1928), or ‘I Watched a Blackbird’ (2 July 1928). Some poems deal with earlier traumas, such as the suicide of his friend Horace Moule, which is explored obliquely in ‘Standing by the Mantlepiece (H.M.M., 1873)’, and some with memories of his family, for instance, ‘Family Portraits’, which had been published in Nash’s and Pall Mall Magazine in December 1924. Poems such as ‘Christmas in the Elgin Room’, written in 1905 and 1926 and printed in The Times, 24 December 1927, and
prominent in the second half of the novel, particularly the ending. It has frequently been noted how the first half is dominated by classical imagery, while Biblical imagery governs the second half. But it would be too simple to invoke Arnoldian terms and see the death of the pagan Hellenic force, Eustacia, as permitting the triumph of the Hebraic ideas of Clym, or to regard her death and his survival as the crushing of female audacity in claiming a legitimate expression of her romantic self in a
community. A reference to Casterbridge tenuously links the Cornish setting of A Pair of Blue Eyes to Wessex, while Wessex seems to represent 157 THOMAS HARDY Dorset in The Hand of Ethelberta. The name ‘Wessex’ is first used in Far from the Madding Crowd, though its geographical extent remains unclear. In this novel a measure of continuity is introduced by the reappearance of Keeper Day from Under the Greenwood Tree and geographical realism is enhanced by the fact that Weatherbury is based on
his personality. However, Showalter argues, the insistent return of the repressed women in his life begins a process of ‘unmanning’, as Henchard loses the trappings of his patriarchal power as mayor, which reveals precisely the terms of what he has missed. Showalter stresses that Hardy understood the feminine self as ‘the estranged and essential complement of the male self ’ (Showalter 1979: 101). The dichotomy in Henchard that she reveals requires his learning of the feminine attributes of
instigative in her relationships with Stephen and Knight. But although Hardy approves of her subversion of cultural codes, he has to pander to Mrs Grundy by counterpointing Elfride’s voice throughout with that of a moralising narrator. Far from the Madding Crowd marks an advance, for Hardy replaces the proprietory narrator with Gabriel Oak. In his role as observer and censor of Bathsheba’s frank sensuality and self-determination, Oak succeeds, by the end of the novel, in crushing her sexual