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BOOK REVIEWS Firing" or "The Convergence of the Twain"—constitute superb poetry; however, a wider reading of Hardy's oeuvre, coupled with a less complacent attitude toward past critical verdicts, produces, Widdowson claims, a more complex and equivocal portrait of the poet. In particular, the reader willing to treat "Hardy the Poet" as a construct, and to look beyond the current model, may find Hardy's notorious "pessimism" countered , in many lesser-known poems by a "refusal... to accept despair" and by "the substitution of human agency for Nature's 'heedlessness.'" "Recasting Hardy the Poet" adroitly illustrates how the impulse, on the part of critics and editors, to render a prolific artist manageable invariably does a disservice to its subject. A pair of recuperative essays on The Hand ofEthelberta and A Laodician round out the collection, each contributing convincingly to the deconstruction of "Thomas Hardy" launched in "Hardy in History," along with provocative readings of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure . The essay on Hardy's penultimate novel, playfully entitled "'Moments of Vision': Postmodernizing Tess of the d'Urbervilles; or, Tess of the d'Urbervilles Faithfully Presented by Peter Widdowson" (1994), is especially fine. Offered in support of Widdowson's second main contention in this volume—that Hardy's fiction is prophetically anti-realistic in orientation—the essay demonstrates that Tess emerges from the novel, rather like Conrad's Lord Jim, as an "enigma" who is "subject only to speculation... and inimical, therefore, to the raison d'être of a fictional realism which finds its very heart in well-rounded 'character.'" If, then, Widdowson has made some of this material "go a long way," he may easily be forgiven. Whether this collection will reach its ideal audience —graduate students wrestling with the complexities of Hardy and/or literary theory—is unclear, but one can easily think of far weaker rationales for a rather slim (and expensive) volume than the opportunity to revisit a leading Hardy scholar's finest moments. Steven Trout __________________ Fort Hays State University British Culture & Publishing Peter D. McDonald. British Literary Culture and Publishing Practice 1890-1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 230 pp. $59.95 PETER D. MCDONALD begins his study of the literary culture of late-Victorian England by recalling Edmund Gosse's 1892 essay on the stately burial of Tennyson at Westminster Abbey. In his essay, Gosse 455 ELT 42 : 4 1999 stands horrified at the contrast between "the distinguished patience, good behaviour, cheerful and untiring inquisitiveness" of those inside the Abbey and the "tribe of hawkers ... and more insidious salesmen doing a brisk trade" in pirated Tennyson works outside. For Gosse, the "impression was one almost sinister in its abrupt transition," and he was relieved to find "courteous policemen" stationed about the Abbey in order to lead those inside it "through the unparalleled masses of the curious " in the streets. As McDonald notes, it would be easy to read Gosse's diatribe as an expression of the writer's class or political prejudices. While not denigrating the importance of such questions, McDonald chooses to focus on "a more specific set of interests," one that encourages us to read Gosse's essay "not only as a discourse on the literary field of the 1890s, but as a view from a particular non-discursive position within it." In order to fully understand the "hierarchy of determinations" which constitutes this non-discursive position, McDonald turns to the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and his theory of the field. Such a turn encourages McDonald to approach Gosse's essay not in hopes of interpreting its meaning but intent upon reconstructing its predicament as a material form "radically situated" in a specific field of production and valuation. This approach becomes a model for McDonald's more extensive reading of three late-Victorian writers. Concentrating on Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, and Arthur Conan Doyle, McDonald uses Bourdieu's concept of the field as a theoretical tool for articulating the vast sociocultural relations that make up any "literary field." As a result, we get an original and provocative study that offers a novel approach to late-Victorian literary culture, an approach less concerned with textual...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 455-460
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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