Moral Authority, Men of Science, and the Victorian Novel by Anne DeWitt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. 290. ISBN-13: 978-1107036178
To be reviewed by Pamela Gossin, University of Texas - Dallas and University of Nebraska - Lincoln, forthcoming in The Hardy Review, XIX, no. 2.
Thomas Hardy and Victorian Communication: Letters, Telegrams and Postal Systems by Karin Koehler. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Pp. xii + 246. ISBN-13: 978-3-319-29101-7
To be reviewed by John McIntyre, University of Prince Edward Island, forthcoming in The Hardy Review, XIX, no. 2.
Excerpt -- The essays in After Darwin: Animals, Emotions, and the Mind address questions of human-animal continuity, the emotional life of morality, and the embodied nature of the mind. As a collection that unites disciplines as (seemingly) disparate as pediatric medicine, animal behavior, and literary studies, it’s no surprise that these essays—through varied engagements with Charles Darwin’s legacy—put pressure on several significant assumptions we continue to make about minds, bodies, emotions, and species. Scholars of Thomas Hardy may be particularly intrigued to trace two ideas elaborated throughout the collection: first, Darwin’s suggestion that the “mind” is a distinctly physical and embodied phenomenon; second, how this rejection of the traditional mind/body dichotomy leads to a similar reassessment of the continuities between feeling and thinking in living beings. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- With Hardy, Vance offers a balanced assessment with touches of elegance: e.g., “he could not altogether convince himself that God and religious thought were of purely antiquarian interest with no bearing on the moral life of man” (118). Vance is comfortable weaving between Hardy’s cool assessment of human isolation from God and the seemingly irresistible wan hope and even assumption of a spiritual element available to belief. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- Hardy, in other words, creates a jury of readers, restricts their view of Tess’s criminal action, and plants in their minds the idea of the “primeval sacrifice” of his heroine. Sacrificed to what, one might ask? With her execution Hardy “lodge[s] an outraged protest against the treatment of women—especially poor, ‘fallen’ women—by society in general and the courts in particular” (140). Tess is executed not just by the legal system (the mechanisms of which Hardy withholds from readers); her culture also participates in her condemnation and execution. Overall this is a thought-provoking chapter.
(link to full review)
Reviewed by M. Kari Nixon, PhD candidate, Southern Methodist University, in The Hardy Review XVI, no. 2, p. 103 - 7:
Excerpt -- Riza Öztürk’s Evolutionary Aesthetics of Human Ethics in Hardy’s Tragic Narratives (2011) presents a surprisingly unique perspective on Hardy and evolutionary theory. Öztürk’s monograph sidesteps the well-worn paths into which Darwinian scholarship has settled, as well as the familiar methodologies of the discipline as a whole. This is paradoxically both the book’s strongest and its weakest point. Since Öztürk uses Evolutionary Aesthetics to initiate applied readings in the nascent critical perspective of evolutionary literary studies, it simultaneously provides a welcome theoretical innovation and also falters because of this innovation, as it struggles to bear the weight of an as-yet unpolished, rather unwieldy theoretical framework. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- The paired nouns – form/faith, poetry/religion – of Kirstie Blair’s title neatly encapsulate this book’s core proposition: that for much of the nineteenth century assumptions about form in the writing of poetry and about form in worship mutually reinforced each other. Far from being primarily a poetry of doubt and anguish, as suggested by predictable readings from Arnold or Clough or the younger Tennyson or the older Hardy, the century’s most central (and once most popular) verse not only articulates a faith sufficiently strong that it can be taken for granted but also reflects in its formal properties its authors’ preferred rituals of worship. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- Paris's aim in this book is to engage with Hardy's 'mimetic portraits', and to illustrate how tragedies such as Tess, The Mayor and Jude are 'the products of a very complex combination of social, psychological and natural forces' (xvi). These forces are influenced by 'interpersonal strategies' of three kinds – individuals moving 'toward people', becoming 'compliant or self-effacing'; moving 'against people' and becoming 'aggressive or expansive'; or moving 'away from people', leading to 'detachment and resignation' (29). In the three novels chosen by Paris for exploration, emphasis tends to be placed upon the detached and the resigned, particularly with reference to the latter two novels. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- Fincham's background as a General Practitioner allows a unique perspective as he applies skills from the consulting room to literary analysis, using interpretative psychotherapy to explore Wessex ... This type of inter-disciplinary approach, particularly integrating literature and the sciences, is a worthwhile addition to Hardy studies. (link to full review and rejoinder)
Excerpt -- Cambridge University Press recently made the surprising choice to reissue Edward B. Powley's A Hundred year's of English Poetry, which was first released in 1930. The book is clearly a relic of its time and thus interesting as an historical artifact. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- If at times the theoretical priorities of Landscape and Literature inhibit a more fine-grained analysis of the literary texts at hand, Ebbatson’s theory-rich analysis pays off in numerous exciting new insights, ultimately offering a reevaluation of the connection between literature and nature. The main argument Ebbatson presents is that literature reflects the struggle of man within yet inherently alienated from nature: the double desire of man, in the words of Max Horkheimer, “to emancipate himself from coercion by nature and from those forms of social life…which have become a straitjacket” (qtd 4).
(link to full review)
The Madder Stain: A
Psychoanalytic Reading of Thomas Hardy by Annie Ramel.
Amsterdam: Brill / Rodopi, 2015. Pp. 190. ISBN-13:
Excerpt -- In The Madder Stain: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Thomas Hardy, Annie Ramel examines the disrupting stains, blights, wounds, and inaudible screams—what critic Hillis Miller once described as “the chain of red things”—that run through Hardy’s fiction (qtd. 2). Bringing psychoanalysis to bear on these disturbances in the fields of sight and sound, Ramel shows that the “madder stain” is “a point of contract” with the Lacanian Real or that which “cannot be integrated into the symbolic order and remains undifferentiated, outside language” (3). Ramel argues that the piercing, fragmented presence of this “sheer, absolute, insoluble mystery” is Hardy’s poetical “signature." (link to full review)
Reviewed by Dale Kramer,
University of Oregon, in The Hardy Review XVII, no.
2, p. 95 - 6:
Excerpt -- Öztürk’s definition of tragedy emphasizes “moral responsibility” and “free will” (see 42-43, among others) as central to true tragedy. Of course he is scarcely alone in emphasizing the ethical significance found in most tragic actions. But to stress ethics de-emphasizes the emotion enforced by a tragic action, not to mention the compelling sense of tragedy in narrative actions that lack moral implications. Indeed, the essential aspect of tragedy is suffering (either physical or mental or emotional, or a combination of these), but it must be suffering that cannot be avoided, exactly because the choice elected by the tragic hero will result in disaster or denial of true self whichever choice he/she makes. (link to full review)
Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters by
Kate Thomas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. 251.
Excerpt -- Working from within a the perspective of queer theory, Kate Thomas illuminates the function of the Post Office in Victorian England as a vast network of sexual and social transgressions that animated the British cultural imagination in the second half of the nineteenth century. Arguing that the Post Office is “something of an overlooked state apparatus by those working broadly within a Foucauldian tradition” (32), Postal Pleasures further challenges the commonplace assumption that correspondence was a private matter, or – in broader terms – that the private/public divide was one of the rigid dichotomies of Victorian culture. ... Despite these less convincing moments, however, the compelling qualities of Postal Pleasures and its many insightful observations are apparent also in its analysis of Hardy’s novel. Thomas offers here a provocative and fascinating lesbian reading of A Laodicean. (link to full review)
Reviewed By Tracy Hayes, PhD candidate, The Open University,
in The Hardy Review XVII, no. 2, p. 97 - 101:
Excerpt -- Lutz writes that “Victorian relic culture sees death, and the body itself, as the beginning of stories rather than their end” (8), and literary representations of reliquary are a central concern of this book. The written word can be seen as a dual line of communication between the dead and the living, but Lutz also foregrounds the materiality of relichood; her chapters are punctuated with photographs of hair jewellery, death masks, books bound with human skin and even skull fragments reputed to have been collected by Edward Trelawny after the cremation of Percy Bysshe Shelley on the beach at Viareggio in 1822. ... Deborah Lutz's book is an erudite piece of scholarship, a wealth of information, argument and insight that cannot truly be done justice to in a review. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- Henchman’s strongest chapter boldly goes to the final frontier in terms of Hardy’s stylistic innovation – The Dynasts and its plethora of cosmic myths, metaphors and allegorical resonances. Henchman positions this remarkable ideological and generic hybrid as ‘an anti-novel, and its narrating chorus of spirits as an anti-narrator to show us a distorted version of narration that makes the norms of the omniscient narrator freshly visible’ (196). (link to full review)
Excerpt -- The aim of Subversion and Sympathy is to provide a shot in the arm to the literature and law movement, taking as its premise the idea that the conversation between the two fields “can illuminate deeper human issues with which both disciplines are concerned” (6). More specifically, the book’s preface asks whether Victorian novels can teach us about laws and legal problems and, if they can, how and where do they do so? (link to full review)
Reviewed by Rebecca Boylan, Georgetown University, in The
Hardy Review XVII, no. 2, p. 101- 5:
Excerpt -- In Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels, Bullen traces a web of thought which he quite successfully follows in accord with most critics that Hardy’s sense of place is dependent on his sense of time – historical, chronological, cultural, and personal. To appreciate place and time in Hardy is to understand how he contextualizes his sense of tragedy within an equally vibrant sensibility of “optimism . . . pleasure, joy and satisfaction [which produced] the enormous positive vitality of his work” (9). It is, Bullen reminds us, in Hardy’s visionary awareness of time and place as a cultural site of human interaction that the writer observes and preserves the significance of our longing and discovering beside our loss and suffering. Because the villages, buildings, woods, and fields are “not just a backdrop for the characters”, Hardy’s readers may become fully engaged participants in his stories, able to know how the architecture created both by Nature and by humanity assumes importance in the essential fabric of Hardy’s impressions of Wessex. (link to full review)
Thomas Hardy: The Poems by
Gillian Steinberg. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Pp.
254. ISBN 978-0230349131
Excerpt -- Steinberg’s textual analyses and attentive readings of Hardy’s key poems are original and, at all levels of interpretation, keen and rewarding; they encapsulate, with insight and depth, a wider range of material than many critics could capture in chapters twice as large. Steinberg’s study is exceptional in important ways. She pays close attention to Hardy’s multiple voices, even to the extent of differentiating between two aspects of the same voice, the “‘before’ and ‘after’ halves of the same character” ... This critically important distinction between Hardy’s multiple voices, especially in distinguishing what I have called elsewhere “the alternative narrator,” or “the bystander narrator,” remains oddly overlooked in millennium studies. (link to full review)
Excerpt -- It is often the fate of the essay collection not to end up greater than the sum of its parts, which then inevitably invites the question of why these particular parts should be brought into association with each other between a single set of covers. The editors' implicit answer to this is contained in the millenarian resonances of the title they attach to their introduction: "Hardy and Literary Studies at the Turn of the Century." Their fortuitously discovered "running theme" concerning "questions about the future sustainability of 'literary studies' and about 'the death of the book' itself in the face of new technologies which call all in doubt" (12) sounds more apocalyptic than the essays themselves warrant, and Hardy studies at the turn of the century seem still to be doing much what they have always done: bringing informed thought to bear on the work of a major writer. Fortunately, the majority of the essays gathered together here generously fulfill that task and are a most welcome addition to current Hardy scholarship. (link to full review)
Reviewed by Thierry Goater, Rennes 2 University, France,
in The Hardy Review XVII, no. 1, p. 98 - 101:
first merit of Thomas’s book lies in the analysis of the
notion of desire in relation to the self, a central
aspect in Hardy’s conception of the human subject.
Thomas is also to be commended for dealing
with fiction as well as with poetry, with short and long
fiction alike, with ‘major’ and ‘minor’ novels, without
ever creating an artificial hierarchy between genres and
texts and always combining synchronic and
approaches. This allows Thomas to highlight both the
permanent features and the evolutions in Hardy’s work.
The clarity of her book is to be praised, too. The
general introduction explains the subject
matter and presents the outlines of
the book. Thomas is always anxious to guide her readers:
each chapter is nicely introduced and concluded, thereby
providing coherence throughout the whole work.
(link to full review)
Reviewed by Rosemarie Morgan, Yale University, in The Hardy Review,XI, no. 2, p. 155 - 7:
Excerpt --Hardyans are in for a rare treat with the late Martin Ray’s Thomas Hardy Remembered. When Ray first compiled this book back in 1999 the late James Gibson had already prepared a parallel version which he published as Thomas Hardy: Interviews and Recollections Not wanting to tread on any eminent toes Ray delayed publication, for indeed the two books do, unfortunately, cover much of the same ground. The differences, though, are significant. (link to full review)
Reviewed by Keith G. Wilson, University of Ottawa, in The Hardy Review,XI, no. 2, p. 151 - 5:
Excerpt -- Through the lens (or shall we say, gauze) of clothing and dress, Gatrell examines an astounding range of Hardy’s writings, calling attention to everyday clothing, accessories, footwear, women’s gowns, mourning clothes, work clothes, and military uniforms. The strength of this book lies in Gatrell’s artful gathering of details, instances, and anecdotes of clothing and fashion from across Hardy’s long career: we get familiar examples such as Tess Durbeyfield’s wedding dress, purchased by Angel Clare, and lesser-known artifacts such as Sue Bridehead’s plain, mulberry-colored dress, worn at a prison-like teacher’s training college. (link to full review)
Reviewed by Rosemarie Morgan, editor of The Hardy Review,
in The Hardy Review XVII, no. 2, p. 83 - 9:
Excerpt -- Rarely does a new scholarly study open up untrodden pathways in Hardy. There are the routine “Companions” which refresh our acquaintance with current studies and, from time to time, enlightening new perspectives appear in the scholarly journals but in terms of conceptualizing Hardy’s scientific imagination Suzanne Keen’s Thomas Hardy’s Brains: Psychology, Neurology, and Hardy’s Imagination forges ahead into entirely new territory. (link to full review)
Thomas Hardy's Legal Fictions by
Trish Ferguson. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
(Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture Series),
2013. Pp. 256. ISBN: 978-0748673247.
Reviewed by William A. Davis, Jr., Notre Dame of Maryland
University, in The Hardy Review XVII, no. 1, p. 94 - 8:
Excerpt -- Ferguson is the first scholar to give careful attention to such matters as what she calls “domestic trial scenes,” moments in which characters, typically women, are subjected to legalistic interrogation, typically by men, and the corresponding “narrative advocacy” found in some novels. Her chapter on the insanity defense brings for the first time important legal and journalistic backgrounds to several of Hardy’s early novels, while other chapters address issues such as land law reform, Hardy’s connections to sensation fiction and “Tichborne fiction,” and the legal status of women in Hardy’s fiction. The book as a whole offers some brand new material on Hardy and the law along with new interpretations of some familiar themes. (link to full review)
-- To read the book through is to gain a
renewed sense of the emotive and intellectual
centers of Hardy's life, condensed into what a
retrospective survey judged worthy to stand as the
raw matter of poetry. Hardy's
transcription into this accumulative or
commonplace book includes material dating back to
the 1860s; the editors discuss the dating of the
notebook itself in their introduction, coming to
the conclusion that Hardy began using it in the
early 1920s, and that he was still making entries
"with increased intensity from the autumn of 1926
onwards, until the beginning of his final
illness..." (xviii). (link
to full review)
War, the Hero and the Will: Hardy, Tolstoy and the Napoleonic Wars by Jane Bownas. Sussex Academic Press, 2015. Pp. 224. ISBN-13: 978-1845196707
Reviewed by Keith Wilson, University of Ottowa, in The Hardy Review XVIII, no. 1, p. 85 - 89:
Excerpt -- Over the longer haul, critical judgment, aided by generic fashion, has of course been much kinder to Tolstoy’s novel than to Hardy’s “Epic-Drama . . . in Three Parts, Nineteen Acts, and One Hundred and Thirty Scenes.” Notwithstanding this imbalance in respect bestowed and attention received, their shared historical focus suggests the appropriateness of the comparative analysis whose challenges Jane Bownas bravely takes up in this book. Welcome as such a pairing is, her study betrays something of the difficulty its author has faced in finding solid foundations, beyond those of shared subject-matter and daunting length, for bringing together two works so radically different in genre, structure, purpose, characterization, narrative emphasis, and conceptual underpinnings. (link to full review)