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ELT 42 : 4 1999 pies of these eight sub-styles do not altogether establish their discreteness with unarguable conviction, and one is left a little uneasy that the more literal-minded of Twayne's student readers may be overpersuaded by the efficacy of such categorising strategies and adopt them as argumentative templates if Lawrence ever does find himself more welcome in literature courses. But as a serious and committed engagement with the vexed question of the literary status of a writer admired by such eminently qualified judges as Hardy, Yeats, Shaw, Forster, Graves and Sassoon , this book is a very useful addition to the Twayne series. Keith Wilson __________________ University of Ottawa Essays on Hardy Peter Widdowson. On Thomas Hardy: Late Essays and Earlier. London: Macmillan, 1998. 218 pp. $49.95 "SCHOLARSHIP," one of my graduate professors once facetiously suggested, "is the art of making a little go a long way." Comprised largely of previously published articles, introductions, and book chapters— some of which contain material that has appeared in at least two incarnations already—Peter Widdowson's On Thomas Hardy: Late Essays and Earlier certainly opens itself to charges of unwarranted scholarly recycling. Yet my only major criticism of this volume is not that it "makes a little go a long way"—few works of scholarship contain as many ideas and insights —but that it bears signs of hasty assembly. Consider, for example, the opening essay, "Thomas Hardy: A Partial Portrait." Included, according to Widdowson, "to give some sense of the complex author we have in hand," the essay fascinatingly juxtaposes three of Hardy's central preoccupations —war, class, and sex—only to trail off, almost in mid thought, without ever providing a conclusion. In a footnote, Widdowson explains "this abrupt ending" by indicating that the essay originally served as the introduction to an anthology of Hardy's poetry and that the section cut from the present version was, for the purposes of an autonomous essay, extraneous. Fair enough. But why not create a new ending? What, exactly , do these three preoccupations tell us, when considered together, about Thomas Hardy? In addition, I was disappointed to discover that the "earlier" essays mentioned in Widdowson's title outnumber the "late" selections (in fact, only two essays in On Thomas Hardy are entirely new). In a volume so 452 BOOK REVIEWS concerned, as we will see, with the formulation of the Hardy canon, the absence of a fresh essay devoted to The Dynasts, perhaps the most neglected of all Hardy's major works, is particularly unfortunate. And, finally , I wondered why Widdowson chose to conclude the collection with a critique (interesting though it is) of the 1996 film version ofJude the Obscure , rather than a final, and far more relevant, discussion of "Thomas Hardy and Critical Theory" (the title of a recent Widdowson essay that, alas, the introduction tells us will soon be appearing elsewhere). Thus, before praising this highly readable volume, I must confess that I often found its intended audience difficult to ascertain. Hardy specialists , most of whom are familiar with Widdowson's work already, will have little need for a collection comprised largely of reprinted material; nor will the rather chilling price tag of $49.95 (for just 195 pages of text) recommend the book for adoption in university seminars—a real shame since On Thomas Hardy would, more than anything, provide graduatelevel students with a surprisingly assessable introduction to the impact of contemporary critical theory on Hardy studies. Indeed, a more appropriate title for Widdowson's collection might be On "Thomas Hardy," the quotation marks signaling the self-aware, postmodern sensibility at work on every page. Essentially, Widdowson pursues two objectives. First, he seeks to expose "Thomas Hardy" as construct, to demonstrate, in other words, that Hardy's work does not reach a late twentieth-century audience without the often subtle, and just as often prejudicial, intervention of critics, editors, biographers, illustrated book jackets (which invariably overemphasize the pastoral dimension of Hardy's Wessex novels), film makers, and, in the case of Hardy (who covertly authored his own third-person biography and, in so doing, established many important critical precedents), the author himself . Second, Widdowson attempts to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 452-455
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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