restricted access Thomas Hardy: The "Dream-Country" of His Fiction, and: Hardy's Influence on the Modern Novel (review)
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Anne Alexander. Thomas Hardy: The "Dream-Country" of His Fiction. Totowa: Barnes, 1987. 190 pp. $28.50.
Peter J. Casagrande. Hardy's Influence on the Modern Novel. Totowa: Barnes, 1987. 247 pp. $27.50.

Despite passages of enlightening analysis, Anne Alexander's study shows little evidence of evolution from its earlier "stage," as she defines it, "a thesis for the Master of Philosophy degree at the University of London." This is unfortunate, for her provocative thesis stands without the support that more mature testing and development would have provided. The absence of a formal introduction is symptomatic of the book's lack of foundation-laying for literary analysis. She suggests that "a writer's genius might be perceived in terms of his sensitivity to the unconscious and his skill in translating its symbols into that language which creates 'texture and tone,' and hence creates the 'reality' of the writer's fictional world" or, in Hardy's case, his "dream country." The term comes from the Preface to the Wessex edition of Far From the Madding Crowd in which Hardy spoke of disinterring the old name of Wessex, which he hoped to reserve "to the horizons and landscapes of a partly real, partly dream country." In Alexander's book problems arise as soon as one inquires what she understands Hardy to have meant by that term and how she will be using it in her analysis. To cite one problem, Hardy did write "partly real, partly dream country"; what boundary, what differences between these two "countries" does she recognize?

If her lengthy first chapter, "Dream-Country," provides no definition, it does give insight into her eclectic and impressionistic methods: she combines one part Jungian philosophy, one part myth or archetypal criticism, and one part explicatory New Criticism in the analysis of examples from a wide range of Hardy's fiction. An excerpt will show the nature of her interpretations: Eustacia, Alexander posits, quoting Jung, "seems to be 'a personification of Egdon's 'animated psychic atmosphere'. . . . Of dreams, Jung suggested that such a 'personification' always indicates an autonomous activity of the unconscious." As Egdon Heath "develops enigmatic human characteristics . . . perhaps we are witnessing Egdon as it might appear in a dream—a dream which inspires a vision of the unconscious striving to become conscious, in order to resolve the persistent archetypal problems of humankind." I find that an unwarranted "perhaps," a speculation that arises more from a desire to fit Hardy into a Jungian mold than from a balanced, fair reading of his fiction.

The book also lacks sustained analysis of Hardy's major fiction. Alexander seems so concerned with ransacking stories and novels, the Life, and prefaces for evidence to support her contentions that she has scant time for patient, solidly argued analysis of whole novels. When she does occasionally devote space to more sustained analysis, such as her discussion of The Woodlanders, she escapes the confines of her usual approach to combine wide-ranging scholarship with sensitive reading of Hardy's text. I have no doubt that Alexander's was an impressive thesis. I do, however, regret the passing of the time when a newly-minted M.A. or Ph.D. would rework a chapter or two of his or her thesis for publication, then lay it aside to take up other work, before undertaking the major reshaping that most graduate-student work requires before it merits publication as a book.

Peter J. Casagrande's admirable book arose from a paradox: "Hardy the [End Page 675] novelist has been valued and praised by fellow novelists in a way he has not been by reviewers and critics." Hardy's "fellow novelists" have been more appreciative of his achievement in fiction, "and his failures seem to have bothered them less." What the writers Casagrande selected for major attention (George Moore, D. H. Lawrence, John Cowper Powys, Marcel Proust, Alain-Fournier, and John Fowles) "most prized in Hardy's fiction was the emergence there of a 'new' beauty."

Oddly enough, despite the general awareness of Hardy's influence on the authors of The Rainbow and Remembrance of Things Past, the nature and scope of Hardy's influence on...


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