This critical and contextual study guide by a distinguished critic of Modernism sheds new light on Hardy's famous novel of rural life, sexual desire and tragic irony.
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The co-ordinating theme of this study guide is that Hardy designed Tess of the d”Urbervilles to be controversial, and it has surpassed his design. An initial biographical chapter relates Tess to Hardy's career: the novel caused scandal but brought him wealth. Next, the work's process of composition is discussed, and differences between the censored serial and the book versions are explained. An analysis of the plot gives particular attention to its ironic strategies, and a further section deals with problematic aspects of characterisation, including the views of the narrator. Various themes and contexts are explored, notably Hardy's attitudes to religion, evolution, politics and sexuality. There follows a discussion of selected literary aspects: naturalism and realism, leitmotifs and thematic patterns, optical effects and defamiliarisation, and the use of specialised vocabularies. Hardy's descriptive powers when rendering the rural world receive particular analysis. A critical survey then summarises critical approaches to this novel between Hardy's day and the present. The work concludes with an appropriate bibliography.
About the author
Cedric Watts, Research Professor of English at Sussex University, is author of the critical study, Thomas Hardy: “Jude the Obscure” (London: Penguin, 1992), and has edited Jude the Obscure for Broadview Press (Ontario, 1999). He has also published numerous works on Shakespeare, Keats, Conrad and Cunninghame Graham.
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