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Hardy's Poetic Vision in "The Dynasts": The Diorama of a Dream

Hardy's Poetic Vision in "The Dynasts": The Diorama of a Dream

Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 336
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    Hardy's Poetic Vision in "The Dynasts": The Diorama of a Dream
    Book Description:

    Susan Dean uses Hardy's own metaphor-the diorama of a dream-to interpretThe Dynasts, his largest and last major composition. She shows that the poem presents a model of the human mind. In that mind is enacted an event (the war with Napoleon) and, simultaneously, the watching of that event.

    The author provides a reading of the poem in visual-dramatic terms, using the diorama stage as the vehicle for the poet's field of vision. She then defines various visual dimensions, the relationships between them, and the various ways in which they can be seen and understood. Her interpretation draws on Hardy's autobiography and critical essays.

    Originally published in 1977.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6803-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Susan Dean
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-47)

    High among the challenges that exercise critics of Thomas Hardy is the “problem” ofThe Dynasts.This vast poem, Hardy’s largest and last major composition, is a strangely remote and inaccessible work. Even faithful readers of Hardy are daunted by the marked contrast it presents to his other writings. The well-known novels and tales and lyrics are immediately accessible and alive in subject matter and form. They deal with recognizable ordinary people, offering a close portrait of their deep feelings and anxieties, their work and circumstances, the large outlines and the daily patterns of their lives. In contrast, the leading...

    (pp. 48-117)

    The light of the diorama penetrates and makes transparent all of the seemingly solid organisms in the exhibit until it falls upon the organism behind all—the impenetrable web that is the “key-scene to the whole” (Fore Scene, 6). This key scene depicts an enormous brain underlying and animating the whole material universe. Though some of its projections beat to its pulses with more stress than others, all things move and have their being by its rhythms. All kinds of space—mental, terrestrial, extra-terrestrial—are at the same place, because upon that one brain. All the other categories by which...

    (pp. 118-197)

    Hardy’s poem takes into its optical exhibit many different lives, human and non-human, seeing them all as so many different forms of the Will’s “outshapings.” (The term is borrowed from a comment of the Spirit of the Years, who says that Napoleon’s actions “do but outshape Its governing”; I,i,vi,36.) But human beings inThe Dynastsdo not see themselves as mere shapes of equal importance with other shapes, not any more than they could accept the radically deterministic views, discussed in the previous chapter, that showed them to be tissues in a vast biological organism, or as atoms coalescing for...

    (pp. 198-235)

    Hardy sets the Napoleonic drama at the front and center of his stage. It makes a natural claim on the center of the viewer’s focus, for like looks to like and a common human identity and interest is shared by the poet, dramatic personages, and viewers. But the poetry in which the drama is written links humankind to other natural phenomena through so many analogies that these linkings affect the dramatic focus, opening it and widening it out to the sides. The non-human lives that are brought into view play only minor parts in the dramatic events, but they perform...

    (pp. 236-298)

    The diorama includes on the border of its picture of life a whole realm of hitherto unperceived phenomena living their lives alongside the human story. These phenomena represent separate spinnings from the Web of Life; they brush glancingly against the drama’s threads without being woven into the poem’s major design. InThe Dynaststhey occupy the same position in the poem’s regard as do the phenomena taken note of by the speaker in Hardy’s poem “Afterwards”—they are “noticed.”¹ In that lyric poem, the flap of delicate-winged green leaves of May; the soundless movement of the “dewfall hawk” as it...

    (pp. 299-310)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 311-318)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-319)