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Less than Faithfully Presented: Fictions in Modern Commentaries on Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles

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Abstract

Nearly twenty years ago I published a study titled ‘Fictions in the Criticism of Hardy’s Fiction’ in which I detailed how, often by ignoring relevant textual and other evidence, critics transformed what Hardy had written into something more nearly like an independent fiction.1 In the generation since, Hardy’s novels have been dissected by nearly every instrument of analysis known to modern literary study, and, amid much fine and revealing scholarship, a new crop of remarkably independent critical fictions has appeared. Hence, I think it may once again be useful to call attention to some of the more creatively imaginative of them, and to consider what influences on contemporary critical practice brought them about. Given, however, the extraordinary amount of scholarship on Hardy’s novels produced in the last twenty years, I will this time limit my illustrations to those drawn from writings on Tess of the d’Urbervilles published or reprinted between 1980 and 1995.

Keywords

Modern Commentary Generous Imaginativeness Recent Commentator Passive Victim Sexual Ideology 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robert Schweik, ‘Fictions in the Criticism of Hardy’s Fiction’, English Literature in Transition, 20 (1977) 204–9.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    On considerations of authorial intention in the interpretation of texts, see, for example, Alexander Nehamas, ‘The Postulated Author: Critical Monism as a Regulative Ideal’, Critical Inquiry, 8 (Autumn 1981) 133–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  8. 3.
    Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, ed. Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983) ch. 59.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    Ian Gregor, ‘Contrary Imaginings: Thomas Hardy and Religion’, in The Interpretation of Belief: Coleridge, Schleiermacher and Romanticism, ed. David Jasper (London: Macmillan Press, 1986) p. 206.Google Scholar
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    For summaries of these evidences, see Kristin Brady, ‘Tess and Alec: Rape or Seduction?’, in Thomas Hardy Annual No. 4, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1986) pp. 127–47Google Scholar
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    David Lodge, ‘Tess, Nature, and the Voices of Hardy’, in The Language of Fiction (London: Routledge, 1966) pp. 164–88.Google Scholar
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    Among the sources cited by modern commentators on Tess are Mikhaïl Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981)Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Jakob Lothe, ‘Hardy’s Authorial Narrative Methods in Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, in The Nineteenth-Century British Novel, ed. Jeremy Hawthorn (Baltimore: Arnold, 1986) pp. 157–70Google Scholar
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  27. 11.
    Peter Widdowson, ‘“Moments of Vision”: Postmodernising Tess of the d’Urbervilles; or, Tess of the d’Urbervilles Faithfully Presented by Peter Widdowson’, in New Perspectives on Thomas Hardy, ed. Charles P. C. Pettit (London: Macmillan Press, 1994) p. 96.Google Scholar
  28. 12.
    Patricia Ingham, Thomas Hardy, Feminist Readings (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989) p. 73.Google Scholar
  29. 13.
    Ellen Rooney, ‘“A Little More than Persuading”: Tess and the Subject of Sexual Violence’, in Rape and Representation, ed. Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 104.Google Scholar
  30. 14.
    Janet Freeman, ‘Ways of Looking at Tess’, Studies in Philology, 79:3 (Summer 1982) 322–3.Google Scholar
  31. 15.
    For citations of many examples, see Sheila Berger, Thomas Hardy and Visual Structures: Framing, Disruption, Process (New York: New York University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  32. 16.
    See Robert Davis, Lacan and Narration: The Psychoanalytic Difference in Narrative Theory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983).Google Scholar
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  34. 18.
    Kaja Silverman, ‘History, Figuration and Female Subjectivity in Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 18:1 (Fall 1984) p. 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 19.
    Kristin Brady, ‘Tess and Alec: Rape or Seduction?’, Thomas Hardy Annual No. 4, ed. Norman Page (London: Macmillan, 1986) p. 129.Google Scholar
  36. 20.
    Judith Mitchell, ‘Hardy’s Female Reader’, in The Sense of Sex: Feminist Perspectives on Hardy, ed. Margaret R. Higonnet (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993) p. 178.Google Scholar
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    Penny Boumelha, Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form (Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982) p. 120.Google Scholar
  38. 23.
    James Kincaid, ‘“You Did Not Come”: Absence, Death and Eroticism in Tess’, in Sex and Death in Victorian Literature, ed. Regina Barreca (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990) p. 14.Google Scholar
  39. 25.
    See Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image-Music-Text, trans. and ed. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977) pp. 142–8Google Scholar
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  41. 27.
    For an analysis of this tendency in modern criticism, see Richard Levin, ‘The Poetics and Politics of Bardicide’, PMLA, 105 1990) 491–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 30.
    Reuben J. Ellis, ‘Joan Durbeyfield Writes to Margaret Saville: An Intermediary Reader in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, Colby Library Quarterly, 24:241 (March 1988) 15.Google Scholar
  43. 31.
    John Goode, ‘The Offensive Truth: Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles / Thomas Hardy, ed. Peter Widdowson, New Casebooks (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1993) pp. 199, 186–7.Google Scholar
  44. 32.
    John B. Humma, ‘Language and Disguise: The Imagery of Nature and Sex in Tess’, South Atlantic Review, 54:4 (November 1989) 66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 33.
    James Gibson (ed.), Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Everyman Library (London: J. M. Dent, 1984) p. 401.Google Scholar
  46. 34.
    Jean Jacques Lecercle, ‘The Violence of Style in Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles / Thomas Hardy, ed. Peter Widdowson, New Casebooks (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press; New York: St Martin’s Press, 1993) pp. 148–9.Google Scholar
  47. Lecercle’s reference is to Gilles Deleuze and F. Guattari’s Mille Plateaux (Paris, 1980).Google Scholar
  48. 36.
    Rosemarie Morgan, ‘Passive Victim?: Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, The Thomas Hardy Journal, 5:1 (January 1989) 32.Google Scholar
  49. 37.
    Dale Kramer, Thomas Hardy: Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) p. 51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 39.
    See, for example, Graham Handley, Thomas Hardy: Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Penguin Critical Studies (London: Penguin Books, 1991) pp. 43–4.Google Scholar
  51. 41.
    Elizabeth Ermarth, ‘Fictional Consensus and Female Casualties’, in The Representation of Women in Fiction, ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983) p. 13.Google Scholar
  52. 42.
    George Wotton, Thomas Hardy: Towards a Materialist Criticism (Totowa: Barnes & Noble; Goldenbridge: Gill and Macmillan, 1985) p. 91.Google Scholar
  53. 44.
    Joe Fisher, The Hidden Hardy (Basingstoke: Macmillan Academic and Professional, 1992) p. 164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Robert C. Schweik 1998

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