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230 HARDY'S FICTION: SOME COLMENTS ON TKE PRESENT STATE OF CRITICISK Ey Michael Hillgate (University College, University of Toronto) The years of 1970 and 1971 have witnessed a sudden upsurge of booklength studies of Hardy which place their major or exclusive emphasis upon the fiction. J. Hillls Miller's Thornas Hardy: instance and Desire (1970) has been followed by F.R. Southerington's Hardy's Vision of Kan (1971) and by my own Thomas Hardys His Career as a Novelist^I97I).» These studies differ sharply in critical method. Hlllls Killer, for example, resumes the kind of approach he had followed in his earlier book on Dickens: "I have assumed," he writes in his Preface, "that the texts of all [Hardy's] individual works exist side by side, woven together in a single fabric. I have sought to read each text as a differential repetition of the others, assuming that its fundamental significance can only be understood in terms of its relation to the others." As Its title may sufficiently suggest, Thomas Hardy: His Career as £ Novelist sees the books rather as autonomous works of art pro3"ïïced at specific moments in a sequential career; while it explores the contribution made by each book to Hardy's maturing conception of human experience, and of his fictional Wessex, its primary concern remains the critical analysis of individual works. In Hardy 's Vision of Man, Southerins·ton 's approach is different again: although he considers the novels in chronological sequence, he does so in strictly limited terms and with the aim of achieving a final overview of Hardy's position as a thinker and as a surveyor of the human condition. Each of the three books has special features of Its own. Southerington 's, for example, incorporates an extended treatment of The Dynasts, while Hillls Killer's gives a good deal of attention to the poetry generally. At the sane time, they show a tendency to touch upon common themes and problems in Hardy's work, and even upon the same passages: all three of them stress the peculiar importance (and success) of Hardy's creation of a closely interrelated rural community in Far from the Hadding Crowd ; all three see The Dynasts as a natural sequel to the novels; all three attempt (though in very different ways) to account for the inconsistencies in Hardy's philosophical formulations, both within his fiction and outside it. A limited comparative critique of the three studies would evidently be possible; it is no less obvious, however, that it would be highly invidious of me to attempt it. Instead I shall offer - what may in any case be more to the point - a broader survey of the Hardy field as it now stands, trying to suggest what approaches to the fiction seem at the moment to be particularly promising, what aspects of it appear to have been especially neglected or misunderstood - what, in short, most needs to be done, undone, or done again. »Although books by Bert G. Hornback and J.I.M. Stewart have also been announced for 1971 I have not been able to see these by the time of writing (July 1971). 231 My survey will, however, omit the various forms of genetic and textual study - not because they do not interest me (on the contrary, I regard them as of primary importance), but because they will be dealt with by Prof essor Schwellt. One of the most interesting issues raised by Hillls Miller is that of the identity of the narrative voice of Hardy's novels. David Lodge, in Language of Fiction, speculated about a voice like that of the local historian which is intermittently audible in Tess; Miller declares more absolutely: "The narrative voice of Hardy's novels is as much a fictional invention as any other aspect of the story. In fact it might be said to be the most important invention of all, the one which generates the rest and without which the rest could not come Into existence. The narrator of The Mayor of Casterbrldge or r_he; Return of The Mat Ive is a role Hardy plays, just as the characters of Fompllia, Caliban, or Pra Lippo Lippi...


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pp. 230-238
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