In this fresh reading of seven of Hardy's major novels, Marjorie Garson argues that the fiction is shaped by a pervasive anxiety about the body and about bodily disintegration. Taking as its starting-point the many somatic images and metaphors within the novels, the book uncovers a subtext about the threat of bodily and psychic dissolution which shapes both Hardy's powerful depiction of nature and his ambivalent treatment of women. This approach focuses
concentration on aspects of the fiction which are often underemphasized, especially the figurative dimension of Hardy's language and his treatment of his minor characters; and accounts for peculiarities in tone, plotting, and characterization which have always attracted critical attention. A study which will
substantially change the way the texts are interpreted, Hardy's Fables of Integrity will be of particular interest to students of critical theory and to feminists, as well as to anyone attracted by the peculiar power of the Hardyan voice.
`Hardy's Fables of Integrity: Woman, Body, Text is a feminist psychoanalytic study of Hardy's fiction - the first, indeed, of volume length to be published and one that seems likely to retain a position of primacy on qualitative rather than purely chronological grounds. ... The resulting analyses, if at times potentially challengeable, are genuinely revisionary in that they make it impossible for the novels in question to be read in the future in quite the
same way as they have been in the past. ... It is perhaps the strongest endorsement of the present volume that it should prompt so strong a desire for another.
Pamela Dalziel, Review of English Studies
`a welcome addition to this field of critical studies...The book sidesteps dialogical discourses with other sage writers in the field, but does provide brief positional footnotes citing their names. This low-key scholarly profile is fully compensated by a vigorous critical stance which is not in the least disengaged or shy of ascribing "unconscious intentions" to Hardy's literary endeavour.
Rosemarie Morgan, Thomas Hardy Journal
`an engaging book ... it is a book that no future commentator on Hardy's fiction will be able to ignore'
Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa, Victorian Studies Association of Ontario Newsletter, No. 50, Fall 1992
`It is an elegant and sophisticated book.
Merryn Williams, Notes and Queries, December 1992
`her study ... persistently shows us the unexpected and overlooked ... consistently challenging, fresh and provocative ... a welcome addition to Hardy studies; it sharpens our reading of Hardy's shifting, anxious texts, and makes it that much more difficult to ignore the complex contradictions that make those texts fascinating reading
Mary Rimmer, University of New Brunswick, Victorian Review
`Garson has a marvellous capacity to turn the novels inside-out, and see what is lurking inside.
Juliet McMaster, University of Alberta, English Studies in Canada, Vol. 19, No. 1, March 1993
`This book ... manages to be something rather more subtle than a straight-forward assessment of Hardy's gender politics. Garson reveals the implications of Hardy's descriptive language of the body ... There is a nice balance maintained throughout between 'the larger structures of plot and character' and 'the details of imagery and rhetoric', ...One of the most striking virtues of this book is its usefulness both for undergraduates and for specialists ...
her work makes a substantial contribution to Hardy studies and would be a valuable addition to any academic library.
Catherine Maxwell, St Hugh's College, Oxford, MLR, 88.2, 1993
`this work, as a body, has enough integrity to engage the spirits of women and men who love Hardy's fables
Frank R. Giordano, Jr, University of Houston, Nineteenth-Century Literature, 48:1 (June 1993)
`well-conceived and well-written book ... an intriguing discourse on hardy's private obsessions with the sinister readiness of things ... to fall apart ... Carson's painstaking scrutinization of texts and careful documentation of evidence offer an enriching second look at a Hardy we thought we already knew
Deborah L. Collins, University of California, Riverside, Studies in the Novel
`This fine book closely reads Hardy's seven novels usually accorded major status. Garson does have a distinctive voice, which powers the most successful adaptation of current literary theory to Hardy that I have read.
English Language Notes June '94
`... a feminist psychoanalytic study of Hardy's fiction - the first, indeed, of volume length to be published and one that seems likely to retain a position of primacy on qualitative rather than purely chronological grounds.
Review of English Studies Vol. XLV