Here the Hardy canon is challenged through the analysis of two 'minor' novels, The Hand of Ethelberta and Two on a Tower, and with the help of manuscript evidence a revolutionary re-reading of The Woodlanders is offered. Generous references to Hardy's letters, autobiography, literary notebooks, marginalia, and the letters of his two wives seek to blend a biographical approach with a feminist reading. Parallelisms between Hardy's fiction and that of contemporary feminist writers are explored to suggest mutual literary influence. Hardy's relations with contemporary women writers, especially his protegees and his 'scribbling' wives, are discussed in unprecedented detail. An analysis of the short stories makes a case for Hardy as the champion of 'Woman as Victim', while his changing responses to the Suffrage movement suggest a deep-rooted ambivalence that makes any glib appropriation of Hardy under the feminist banner too simplistic. This book thus highlights the tensions and contradictions between Hardy the apologist for women and Hardy the alleged misogynist.
...Dutta's intelligent and eloquent study of the novelist's ambivalent attitute toward women offers material not otherwise obtainable... Choice