Widely popular all over the world, Hardy still seems to speak to us in fiction and poetry, as our contemporary. Peter Widdowson's work identifies the elements in Hardy's writing which enable him to be read in this way: the focus on unstable class and sexual relations in a society undergoing rapid change, for example. Others include the highly charged and contradictory representations of women at the heart of this dangerously metamorphic social process and the self-reflexive artifice of the writing itself as an aspect of Hardy's satiric worldview. Widdowson also examines Hardy's ironic humanism in the new 'Dark Age' of the modern world. Drawing on contemporary and updated approaches to literary study, this new edition offers a sketch of Hardy criticism up to the present. It re-reads all the novels to show where this radical and destabilising Hardy is to be located in the text and recasts our conception of Hardy the poet by showing how preconceived and selective it is. This is a short comprehensive guide to reading Hardy anew, as a writer who continues to challenge our assumptions about art and life.
Peter Widdowson is Professor of English at the University of Gloucestershire. He has published widely on fiction and history and on critical theory, and most regularly on Hardy.