# 'The means of seeing' : looking at reality in the novels of Thomas Hardy

Harris, Nicola Joy (1998). 'The means of seeing' : looking at reality in the novels of Thomas Hardy. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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## Abstract

Hardy approached the problem of nineteenth-century realism as an ontological and literary concern largely through images of perception. This thesis suggests that Hardy adopted an innovative approach in an effort to identify the term, and argues that his subversive contribution to the Great Debate occasioned the necessary impetus for the experimental fictions of the twentieth century. In rejecting the orthodox, aesthetic prescriptions established by such authorities as George Eliot and Henry James, it is suggested that Hardy released the Victorian novel from its restricting reliance on ostensibly objective fact and paved the way for a more subjective interpretation of reality and a more introspective kind of narrative.
It is contended that Hardy's literary response to a range of optical treatises encouraged his challenging reinterpretation of reality. As a preparatory measure, $$A$$ $$Pair$$ $$of$$ $$Blue$$ $$Eyes$$ metaphorically petrifies the perspective; $$Far$$ $$from$$ $$the$$ $$Madding$$ $$Crowd$$ interrogates Ruskin's theory of moral perception; $$The$$ $$Return$$ $$of$$ $$the$$ $$Native$$ looks at phenomena through an intellectual lens; $$The$$ $$Mayor$$ $$of$$ $$Casterbridge$$ judges a reality filtered through a sartorially-inclined public eye instructed by Carlyle; $$The$$ $$Woodlanders$$, the turning point in the sequence, observes with an eye disillusioned by the evolutionists; $$Tess$$ $$of$$ $$the$$ $$d'Urbervilles$$ creates a reality from the affective eye championed by Comte and Fourier; $$Jude$$ $$the$$ $$Obscure$$ wanders blindly between two literary eras, perceptual incoherences, and dislocations between phenomenal and noumenal compromising the narrative's formal integrity.
This thesis maintains that, through an idiosyncratic frame of referentiality as well as regard, Hardy transforms the objective, material world into his own versions of reality, and triumphs over oppressive facts by subjectively appropriating them. Each of Hardy's works offers an alternative yet equally viable perceptual angle from which the creation, form, and function of reality as a psychological, practical, ontological, and literary concern can be judged.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Supervisor(s):
Supervisor(s)EmailORCID
Storey, MarkUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Licence:
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/8018

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