In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews95 Simon Gatrell. Thomas Hardy and the Proper Study of Mankind. Charlottesville, Virginia: UP of Virginia, 1993. ix + 195. $27.50 US (cloth). Simon Gatrell, an established editor ofHardy's fiction and author of the exhaustive Hardy the Creator: A Textual Biography, ventures for the first time into a full-length critical text. "The proper study of mankind," is, of course, from Pope's Essay on Man. Hardy, says Gatrell, is equally confident that "the proper study of mankind is man," but, unlike Pope, the answers Hardy derived from his "study" were inconsistent and even contradictory. And that, indeed, seems to be Gatrell's purpose in writing this book — to record Hardy's various views of the human condition as reflected in eight of his fourteen novels. In particular, claims Gatrell in the introduction, Hardy's distinction as a writer lies in his concern with individuals and their relationship to their "nonhuman " environment. He also, though, sees Hardy as preoccupied with the overall problem of causality and human agency, and interested as well in the idea of community. Even in the introduction, the book betrays its lack of focus. Gatrell admits to not making any kind of systematic conclusion from his study. Rather, I have attempted to reflect this multiplicity [of Hardy's points of view] through a series of related and chronologically sequential chapters that do not themselves propose a single line of argument, or embrace a single critical approach, but rather seek to embody the variousness of Hardy's creative imagination. (6) The scholarly value of this unfocussed, critically undefined study of Hardy is open to question, especially since Gatrell rarely cites any of the legions of critics who have gone before him. However, Gatrell's approach, although quirky and meandering, is honest and certainly fuelled by a love for and familiarity with Hardy's fiction, and these qualities make the book refreshingly readable. Thomas Hardy and the Proper Study of Mankind discusses the novels Under the Greenwood Tree; The Return of the Native; The Trumpet-Major, A Loadicean; Two on a Tower; The Mayor of Casterbridge; Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Gatrell begins each chapter with a reflection on the novel's title, and then he sketches out aspects of the novel's world that he is interested in. Often, though, he does not define the tropes or figures precisely, as in Chapter Two, "Hardy's Dances." While the chapter contains some sensitive individual readings of Hardy's dance scenes, his working definition of 96Victorian Review "dance" is too general. He writes, ". . . for Hardy, as for no other nineteenth century novelist since Austen, dance was an activity of fundamental importance. . . ." (25) But the folk or country dancing of Hardy's novels is a world apart from the formal dancing of Austen's novels, in terms of class as well as the ritual's signification. Gatrell introduces the chapter with a discussion of Yeats's interest in stage dance, which is even further removed from any kind of communal dancing. Without a firm concept of "dance," the argument becomes a mere collection of "themes." This indistinctness leads Gatrell to make obvious claims such as "Hardy shows clearly that he believes dance has at its root the physical pleasure of energetic, social, but non-functional movement; and much more often than not, die stimulus of sex" (39). It this an unusual view of dance? The quirkiest chapter is Chapter Seven, "Angel Clare's Story," which is a first-person account told by "Mr. Michael James," who claims that Angel Clare, Tess's Husband in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, was modelled after him. The puzzled reader will realize at the end of die chapter that "Michael James" is a character imagined by Gatrell. Once the fictionalization is understood, the reader can focus on the essay itself, which, its eccentric method notwithstanding, raises interesting questions about the relationship between truth, fiction, and authorship. Because "Michael James" claims to be as interested in "truth" as much as in his own reputation, the stakes are high for him, and textual variants between manuscript and other editions bear great weight. Here "Michael James" recounts his finding Tess to be...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 95-97
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.