Impressions of Wessex: Light, perspectives and landscape in six Hardy novels

Greenhill, Vivian Barbara (2002) Impressions of Wessex: Light, perspectives and landscape in six Hardy novels. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 10645900.pdf] PDF
Download (9MB)


My thesis is based on the characteristics of Hardy's pictorial art. I believe that his treatment of landscape, light, and perspectives helps to shape our perceptions of character, mood, and motive. The six Wessex novels that I have selected for discussion on this subject are. Under the Greenwood Tree, The Woodlanders, The Return of the Native, A Pair of Blue Eyes, Two on a Tower, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Each of these reveal identifiable artistic techniques and influences that contribute to the visual intensity of the writing. The quality of the imagery owes much to the nuances of light and shadow, colour and monochrome, mist and radiance. Perspectives are manipulated as carefully as the light effects and include techniques such as the window and door framing, the high and low vantage-points, the foregrounding and downscaling of the human figure, the close- range focus and diffused distance shots. A wide range of European artists have, implicitly, or explicitly, influenced Hardy throughout the novels - the most discernible being the Dutch School, the Impressionists, Rembrandt, and Turner. His tendency to rely on artists and artistic techniques has provoked much critical debate. The merits and flaws of the aesthetic distancing and the tableaux-like fixity in many of the scenes are recurring areas of contention. Our appraisal of landscapes, constitutive or metaphorical, is also a topic for debate, especially in our examination of The Return of the Native. We observe throughout the narratives contrasting Romantic and anti-Romantic presentations of landscape that point to a creative tension within the writing. The characters' relationship with then- environment emerges as a central theme. It becomes apparent that that those who interact naturally with the landscape are shown to be light-suffused, while those who rebel against it are depicted in shadow. Our study of the landscapes leads us to question the role of Nature itself. It can appear as being indifferent to mankind or, as an agent, sympathetic or hostile, seeking to advance or undermine the interests of the characters. Hardy's axis is finely poised, so that fleeting glimpses of pastoral scenes in sequestered forests or sunlit valleys become (inevitably) darkened by lurking shadows of decaying and distorted vegetation. Hardy suggests that the novels should be regarded, first and foremost, as impressions. We are left with illuminated moments - landscapes, enhanced by light and perspectives - a series of memorable impressions.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Donald MacKenzie
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 2002
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2002-72135
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 12:51
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 12:51

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year