Visualization and visual perception: The novels of Thomas Hardy

Samuel Walter Best, University of Rhode Island


Thomas Hardy's novels employ a system of visualization and visual perception that provokes the conscious or unconscious experience of sources from the art world. Hardy thereby expresses meaning and feeling through a subtle use of visual perception, the end result of which is that the more clearly something is "seen" in his work, the more clearly it is understood. By looking closely at Hardy's own comments about the art of the novel and from his use of techniques of literary visualization, a correspondence can be established to show that he considered visual perception and meaning as intrinsically connected.^ The Introductory chapter concentrates on the historical and theoretical background to the interart analogy. Subsequent chapters discuss six of the novels in the following order: Under the Greenwood Tree; The Return of the Native; The Mayor of Casterbridge; The Woodlanders; Tess of the d'Urbervilles; and finally Jude the Obscure, the point of closure for the fictive Wessex world. Hardy's narrative style works by not only successfully exploiting imagery from schools of Western European painting to enhance a sense of the visual, but also by depending on a system of extracting meaning from techniques of visualization and visual perception other than the straightforward transcription of painterly "effects" from canvas to page. The conclusion evaluates how the visualization helps the reader define specific strategies for approaching this fundamental area of Hardy's oeuvre. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Samuel Walter Best, "Visualization and visual perception: The novels of Thomas Hardy" (1990). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9109459.