'Ecstatic Sound': Music and Individuality in the Work of Thomas Hardy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

'Ecstatic Sound'

Music and Individuality in the Work of Thomas Hardy, 1st Edition

By John Hughes


256 pages

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Hardback: 9781840146332
pub: 2001-11-20
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This book studies the ways Hardy writes about music, and argues that this focus allows for a close and varied investigation of the affective dimensions of his poetry and fiction, and his recurrent preoccupations with time, community and love. Throughout his work Hardy associates music with moments of individual expression and relatedness. For him, music provokes a response to life that is inseparable from what gives life value, as well as being incompatible with his increasingly conscious vision of personal and social limitation. The first two chapters trace how this ironic disjunction is evident in the novels and the tales, while exploring in detail how they represent and evoke the spiritual and emotional transports of musical experience. In a corresponding way, the third and fourth chapters concentrate on how, within the poetry, music works as a vehicle of inspiration and memory, recurrently surprising the conscious self with intimations of other potentials of expression. In the fifth chapter, the focus falls on Hardy's own philosophical reading, and thus on his notebooks and letters, so as to revisit in an altered context many of the issues that have been opened up by the book's emphasis on his literary representations of musical experience-issues of individuality, of unconscious and bodily experience, of literary language. Finally, although the book does incorporate some biographical detail about Thomas Hardy's lifelong passion for playing and collecting music, it predominantly works through close reading, while also drawing at points on literary theoretical texts, where these offer ways of articulating the broad questions of literary convention and representation that arise.


'Hughes's ability to balance theory and textual analysis is a particular strength of this elegantly written and suggestive study, which is informed by an impressive synthesis of material from various disciplines. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above.' Choice 'Ecstatic Sound offers the Hardy reader a series of remarkable new insights in its lively attentiveness to the text, its engagement with and resistance to critical orthodoxy and its genuinely original method of a theorised re-reading.' English '… a distinguished addition to the ever-increasing specialized critiques of Hardy's many-sided work… Hughes' detailed survey of both fiction and poetry, each given two long chapters, is richly suggestive, while in a final chapter his discussion of aesthetic, psychological and philosophical contexts, the latter chiefly involving Bergson and Deleuze, deepens understanding of Hardy's creativity.' English Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; ’Souls unreconciled to life’; ’Those unaccountable sensations’; ’The beats of being’; ’Till time seemed fiction’; ’Let every man make a philosophy for himself out of his own experience’; Bibliography: Index.

About the Author

John Hughes

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature