Composite Ghosts: A ‘Doubleeyed’ Reading of Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved

Corfield Carr, Holly (2017) Composite Ghosts: A ‘Doubleeyed’ Reading of Thomas Hardy’s The Well-Beloved. Cambridge Quarterly, 46 (1). pp. 1-20. ISSN 0008-199X

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Thomas Hardy’s preface to the 1912 reissue of The Well-Beloved ends with a line from Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Last Ride Together’ – ‘The petty done, the undone vast!’ – offering a model of the chiastic reciprocity operating within the peculiar structure of the novel. This extraordinary and extraordinarily ‘undone’ work reproduces chronology as parallelism, attending to time as vertical strata, banded by repetition. The verticality of time is proposed by the novel’s insistence upon repeatedly returning its protagonist to the sedimental landscape of the Isle of Slingers – a fictionalised Portland peninsula in Dorset – establishing a complex series of overlaps between human and geological scales within the narrative and without, finding continuities across Hardy’s wider body of work. For the reader, The Well-Beloved requires a divided attention, alert to the differences and repetitions between the stacked temporalities of the narrative as well as the contradictions and duplications present in the novel’s publication history. As Sheila Berger diagnoses Hardy’s imagination with ‘double vision’, it is worth attempting to read The Well-Beloved against the deep blur of the double in Hardy’s writing, the space of overlap presenting itself as, or gesturing towards, stratified depth. The Well-Beloved rewards this mode of deep reading, which prioritises the parallel over the sequential in constituting a valuable document of seeing – and thinking – in depth at the start of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Editor's Choice 2017
Uncontrolled Keywords: thomas hardy,geology,stereoscopy,poetry
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 11:31
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2023 11:31
DOI: 10.1093/camqtly/bfw038

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