• Thomas Hardy's Impulse: Context and the Counterfactual Imagination

    Author(s):
    Jacob Jewusiak (see profile)
    Date:
    2018
    Group(s):
    LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English
    Subject(s):
    Narrative and time, Novel (genre), Affect
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6H70805X
    Abstract:
    Focusing on the impulsive act, this essay analyzes the relationship between the temporality of decision making and the determination of social context in Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), The Woodlanders (1887), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891). While critics often note the entrapment of Hardy’s characters in contexts such as social class and gender, this article contends that the impulsive act can only be explained contextually after it has already occurred. The irreducibility of the impulsive act to a rational explanation (social or natural determinism, historical necessity) gives rise to a counterfactual imagination that feeds off the contingency of a decision that might have been made differently or not at all. The power of these counterfactuals attests to a shift in the centre of agency away from the urgency of decision making to the more reflective, imaginative rewriting of a past that could have been. By doing so, Hardy’s characters exhibit the most agency when they act like authors, viewing themselves as fictional characters that can be written or rewritten.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    11 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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