Printer Friendly

DREAMING HOLMBERRY-LIPPED TESS: ABORIGINAL REVERIE AND SPECTATORIAL DESIRE IN TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES.

"Well, if you look at it their way," he grinned, "the whole of bloody Australia's a sacred site."

"Explain," I said.

--The Songlines Bruce Chatwin(1)

You upset me baby Yeah you upset me baby Like being hit by a falling tree Woman what you do to me!

--"Upsetter Blues" B. B. King

I

A post-gallows autopsy of murderess and tragic heroine Tess Durbeyfield might, if performed, have begun by noting the presence of two extraordinarily well-developed pairs of body parts: lips and legs. Tess's lips--deep red, warm, kissable, defining features of a mouth Alec d'Urberville calls "maddening"--get her into repeated trouble by the simple fact of her being their possessor. "Poor Tess's sensual qualifications for the part of heroine," sniffed Mowbray Morris in an anonymous 1892 review of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, "are paraded over and over again with a persistence like that of a horse-dealer egging on some wavering customer to a deal, or a slave-dealer appraising his wares to some full blooded pasha."(2) Her legs are glimpsed as rarely as her lips are frequently (thanks to late Victorian hemlines), but they transport her over a remarkable quantity and variety of terrain in the course of the novel, much of it in an effort to avoid or ameliorate the heartache generated by her status as the most visually charismatic megafauna ever to roam the hills and dales of Wessex.(3) Surely no "passive" female protagonist has ever walked so many miles, milked so many cows, threshed so much wheat, harvested so many frozen beets, labored so hard--against the curse of spectacular good looks, above all.(4)

Yet the charge of passivity cannot simply be dismissed. Any character sketch of Tess which begins with lips and legs--unwillingly projected sensuality and wide-ranging bipedal mobility--must end by acknowledging a third defining mode: Tess as Dreamer, by night and day. "Tess is asleep, or in reverie," observes Penny Boumelha, "at almost every crucial turn of the plot: at Prince's death, at the time of her seduction by Alec, when the sleepwalking Angel Clare buries his image of her, at his return to find her at the Herons, and when the police take her at Stonehenge."(5) To these might be added: while floating across the Marlott landscape at dusk, while singing herself along the road to Talbothays Dairy, while wading through the garden towards the sounds of Angel's plucked harp, while harvesting frozen turnips and feeding the wheat-thresher at Flintcomb-Ash farm. NO JOB TOO BIG OR TOO SMALL, the sign on her back seems to read, FOR A MOMENT OF DOWN-TIME. "The incarnate state of Tess's soul," remarks Mary Jacobus, "appears to be as close to sleep--to unconsciousness--as is compatible with going about her work."(6) Feminist readers of Tess have generally been quick to mark such dreaminess as invidious, part of an ideological project through which Tess, with her "mobile peony mouth," is constructed as an instance of the natural--all skittering instinct and passive acquiescence and free--floating reverie, in contrast to Alec's focused willfulness and Angel's intellectual stringency. This politically retrograde "natural" Tess is both a sadistically exploited object of male scopic desire and a continually self-liquidating subject, the "charm[ing]" field-woman upon whose pulchritudinous form Hardy and his textual surrogates gaze with unseemly voyeuristic hunger.(7) "[T]hose of the other sex," remarks the narrator of Tess in an oft-cited passage,
   were the most interesting of this company of binders, by reason of the
   charm which is acquired by woman when she becomes part and parcel of
   outdoor nature, and is not merely an object set down therein as at ordinary
   times. A field-man is a personality afield; a field-woman is a portion of
   the field; she has somehow lost her own margin, imbibed the essence of her
   surrounding, and assimilated herself with it.(8)


Yet such reverie-in-nature--the field-woman's losing of "her own margin"--may be a form of spirit-work, a legitimate mode of defense, a variety of religious experience struggling against colonial enclosure or male scopic desire. What the narrator refers to as "Tess's unassisted power of dreaming" (p. 362) might remind us, I suggest, of another subject people pressured--like the Durbeyfield tribe (indeed, like Hardy himself)(9)--by the force of a calculating metropolitan gaze, a people with a submerged but passionately embraced prehistory rooted in a primordial event known as "the Dreaming." I am referring to the Australian Aborigines--or, rather, the decimated remnants of five-hundred-odd tribes grouped under that name and bound into an informal polity by shared beliefs, rituals, and modes of long-distance communication, the "songlines" memorably evoked by Bruce Chatwin.

Australia is mentioned explicitly at several points in Hardy's novel--it, like the American West, is one of several frontiers Angel considers making his fortune on--but my argument here is not for Hardy's deliberate mapping of Aboriginal modes of religious belief onto the inhabitants of Wessex. It is, instead, for a series of striking parallels between the two communities, arising from what might be termed an aboriginal collective unconscious, which throw the overarching plot of Tess in sharp relief and force us to rethink the nature/culture opposition (Tess-as-Nature's-Body, desired/inscribed/raped by men) on which many readings of the novel have pivoted.(10) What passes for an ideological encoding of the natural in Tess--for example, her explicitly remarked continuity with the hills, dales, fields, and photosphere of Wessex--may be seen from an Aboriginal perspective as a sign both of proper acculturation and spiritual attainment, the achieved power of mapping oneself onto and into numinous ancestral terrain. "So long as human consciousness remains within the hills, canyons, cliffs, and the plants, clouds, and sky," insists Leslie Silko, "the term landscape, as it has entered the English language, is misleading. `A portion of territory the eye can comprehend in a single view' does not correctly describe the relationship between a human being and his or her surroundings."(11) The depth of Tess's kinship with her native grounds is suggested when the narrator says of his heroine that "[e]very contour of the surrounding hills was as personal to her as that of her relatives' faces" (p. 75); she has personalized those terrainian curves not by gazing at them, but by tramping them.(12) Yet Tess herself is a kind of numinous terrain, unwillingly mapped by male desire in a manner not wholly separable from the more general colonial project: a "virgin" harbor, like a pretty country-girl, may seem to smile bewitchingly at the keen-eyed explorer who first encounters her. The peculiar agony suffered by Tess, I argue in my reading of the novel, may be glimpsed most clearly at the intersection of these two diametrically opposed mappings: the moment when, to borrow the titles of two exemplary texts, The Mysteries of the Dream-Time are confronted by The Society of the Spectacle.(13)

II

Confrontations between Aboriginal society and the spectatorial Western eye had been taking place in Australia, in some form or other, since the British government's First Fleet entered Port Jackson in 1788, and had entered a decadent late phase by the time Hardy wrote Tess more than a hundred years later. Few native peoples were more picturesque and entertaining, from the colonial perspective, than down-and-out Abos. "The decay of fringe-dwelling blacks on the edge of white urban culture," writes Robert Hughes, with a hardboiled vividness that makes its own kind of literary spectacle out of aboriginal abjection,
   --the remnants of the Iora, Gammeraigal and Daruk--was inexorable and
   all-pervasive; to sympathetic onlookers it seemed a plague, and to racist
   ones a bestial joke. Stupefied with the cheapest grade of rum, racked with
   every new disease from tuberculosis to syphilis, begging and babbling in
   the flash-talk and gutter argot of the convicts, they were caricatures of
   misery. Even their traditions of authority had been parodied by the whites,
   who insisted on giving some elders patronizing identity cards in the form
   of crescent-shaped copper plates, with their rank as "chief" engraved on
   them in English.(14)


The traditional artifact being parodied here was the tjuringa, which Bruce Chatwin describes in The Songlines as "an oval-ended plaque, carved from stone or mulga wood, and covered with patterns which represent the wanderings of its owner's Dreamtime Ancestor. In Aboriginal law, no uninitiated person was ever allowed to look on one" (p. 43). One can hardly imagine better proof for Guy Debord's assertion in The Society of the Spectacle that "spectacle's essential character ... [is] as a visible negation of life--and as a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself" (p. 14). All that was sacred becomes a floodlit bad joke.

A variety of bad joke is precisely what Parson Tringham plays on John Durbeyfield at the beginning of Tess when he encounters the tipsy peasant one evening and calls out "Good night, Sir John." Tringham has been doing researches; his revelation of Durbeyfield's "ancient and knightly" genealogy provokes delighted babbling shock. "`I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too,'" Durbeyfield cries; "`but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? ... And to think that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time. `Twas said that my gr't-grandfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where he came from'" (p. 45). Of course, Tringham continues, there's the problem of ancestral homelands: nothing left except the burial vaults at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill. "`You don't live anywhere,'" he adds, taking away with his right hand what he's just given with his left. "`You are extinct -- as a county family.'" Declining Durbeyfield's offer of a quart of beer at a local tavern, Tringham rides off, leaving Tess's father to "[walk] a few steps in a profound reverie." Later Durbeyfield will show up drunk at the local May-Day procession, leaning back in a rented wagon, "singing in a slow recitative--`I've-got-a- gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere -- and knighted-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-there!'" (p. 51). "Before the whites came ...," writes Chatwin, "no one in Australia was landless, since everyone inherited, as his or her private property, a stretch of the ancestor's song and the stretch of county over which the song passed. A man's verses were his title deeds to territory" (p. 57). Durbeyfield's drunken ditty is a travesty of Aboriginal songline ritual, to be sure, but one that hints at a substratum of shared feeling. The reverie into which he falls on being informed of his submerged genealogy--the last in a line of Olympians!--and its subsequent issue in parceled-out song finds strong parallel in Aboriginal conceptions of creation as a time of "Dreaming" in which a pristine landscape was endowed with geographical features and criss-crossed with songlines. "Not until the period of tjukuba or Dreaming," recounts James Cowan,
   and the mysterious appearance of Sky Heroes, either from inside the earth
   itself or from an ill-defined upper region, did the landscape take on a
   truly cosmic significance and attain to form. At the conclusion of the
   Dreaming period the Sky Heroes disappeared from the face of the earth,
   leaving in their place their personalized "signatures" in the guise of
   topographic landmarks, contour variations, trees, animals--in fact, all
   manifestations of life on earth. (Pp. 25-26)


An Aborigine makes contact with "his" Dreaming--with the Sky Heroes responsible for singing his local habitat into being--by setting off on a Dream-Journey; he goes Walkabout, descends into reverie, sings or dances, regains his soul by reestablishing his bond with numinous ancestral territory. "Ritual," Cowan continues,
   is the instrument by which the Aborigine explores the otherworld, the
   Dreaming. He is the supreme liturgist capable of devising ceremonies to
   embrace all aspects of Sky Hero activity, whether they are real or imagined
   ... By embodying the immaterial in an action (dance) or a musical construct
   (song) he gives physical credence to a range of numinous values and
   emotions. (P. 122)


Which is, in his own sad way, precisely what the newly-annointed Sir John is attempting to do as he sprawls drunkenly in the back of that hired wagon: devise a liturgy by which he might at once invoke and fuse himself with his Sky Heroes. Sing himself along his ancestral songline towards the Kingsbere vault. Behave for all the world like a man who has suddenly been reunited with his Dreaming.(15)

Literary criticism--the product of a culture premised on an extreme heightening of the visual sense over all others(16)--is uneasy with the sort of language I've just been using, which it tends to dismiss as mystification. Modern regimes of knowledge are regimes of sight, after all: the prisoner observed, the disease-carrier labeled, the narrative anatomized. To this extent criticism is bound up with the general Western drift towards spectacularity--a separation of vision from participation--and is thus, to quote Debord, "heir to all the weakness of ... Western philosophy, which was an attempt to understand activity by means of the categories of vision" (p. 17). I make this point as a way of introducing the figure of Tess, whom, I would argue, criticism has had a far easier time seeing than inhabiting. The very notion of "inhabiting" a character is suspect, an imposition of power effected with the help of hungry, oppressive eyes. "To realize Tess as consciousness," insists Bourmehla, "with all that entails of representation and display, inevitably renders her all the more the object of gaze and of knowledge for reader and narrator" (p. 120). It is true that we "know" Tess only through the narrator's eyes, eyes which both report on and take part in her construction as a fetish-object of extraordinary visual charisma. But the Tess so-depicted has another quality--a chameleonic insistence on melting into the landscape, retreating into reverie--which represents both a negation of the pressure of so many prying eyes and a positive assertion of spiritual identity. Tess uniquely exemplifies the pain inflicted by spectacularity on a soul that knows its own deepest pleasure as a mode of unselfconscious, unconstrained being which is antithetical to spectacle. The real Tess (so to speak) may escape us in those moments of reverie and dissolution if we insist on reading them solely as an annihilation of self, if we refuse to acknowledge the existence and claims of her Dreaming.

That her transformation into spectacle might be a source of spiritual disease for Tess is established from the moment she enters the narrative. We first glimpse her as one of a group of Marlott girls participating in a spring ritual called club-walking. "A difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public scrutiny," the narrator tells us, "an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and showed that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many eyes" (p. 50). Tess herself is initially described as "a fine and handsome girl--not handsomer than some others, possibly--but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape" (p. 51). That mouth is returned to almost immediately, hovered over like a disembodied vulva filmed closeup: "The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word" (p. 52). It was this kind of not-so-subtle eroticization that Mowbray Morris presumably had in mind when he wrote Hardy a letter in 1889 refusing to accept Tess for serialization: "Perhaps I might say that the general impression left on me by reading your story--so far as it has gone--is one of rather too much succulence."(17) But Hardy's aesthetic, influenced by the Symbolists, demanded a certain measure of heightening for the sake of effect: "Art," he wrote in 1890, "is a changing of the actual proportions and order of things, so as to bring out more forcibly than might otherwise be done that feature in them which appeals most strongly to the idiosyncrasy of the artist."(18) Hardy the literary artist was, it would seem, a lip man; the narrator of Tess bodies forth that idiosyncratic fetish, as do Alec d'Urberville and Angel Clare. The Aborigines would say that the men in Tess's life have Holmberry-Mouth Dreaming.

Tess's own Dreaming is less clear, and that lack of clarity--her suspendedness between a Dream-Journey quest to reconnect with ancestral sources of life and a double seduction plot, driven in part by economic necessity, which reduces her repeatedly to spectacle--will last until she acts decisively in the novel's final pages. Both plots are inaugurated when the issue of approaching a nearby d'Urberville family and "claiming kin" is raised. If Tess's Dream-Journey is incited by visions of reclaiming her paternal inheritance, then it is her embodied maternal inheritance--the voluptuity she owes to a long line of dairymaids and peasants, the "trump card" celebrated by her mother--that will precipitate in the men she encounters sex-charged dreams of claiming her as their own. She makes a first foray off her traditional homelands, past those surrounding hills whose every contour "was as personal to her as that of her relatives' faces" (p. 75); but as she steps off the van at Trantridge Cross and walks uphill towards what she is expecting to be an ancient manorial estate, she is surprised to see "a country-house built for enjoyment pure and simple, with not an acre of troublesome land attached to it beyond what was required for residential purposes" (p. 77). It lacks, in other words, precisely that spiritual anchor in accumulated-knowledge-of-place which characterizes Tess herself. An imperial outpost plopped down on what Debord might have termed "pseudo-countryside" bordering The Chase, "one of the few remaining woodlands in England of undoubted primaeval date," the house proudly bespeaks its cashnexus origins: "Everything looked like money--like the last coin issued from the Mint." The modern spiritual declension wrought by capital--from being to having to appearing--has found its paradigmatic instantiation in this pleasure-palace. "[A]ll effective `having,'" as Debord observes, "must now derive both its immediate prestige and its ultimate raison d'etre from appearances."(19) Hardly surprising, then, that its young male lord should be a creature of hypertrophied visuality(20)--appraising the confused Tess with his "bold rolling eye," calling out to her "Well, my Beauty," perking up mightily as "her rosy lips curved towards a smile" (p. 79). Entranced by those lips, Alex enacts a symbolic rape with the help of home-grown strawberries:
      D'Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing
   them back to her as he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine
   product of the "British Queen" variety, he stood up and held it by the stem
   to her mouth.

      "No -- no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and
   her lips. "I would rather take it in my own hand."

      "Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips
   and took it in. (P. 81)


This is what the Society of the Spectacle does: transforms a source of nourishment and delight into a form of enacted pornography. Tess's distress is grounded, I would suggest, less in a gendered dismay at being "used" than in the reflexive species-fear of an animal forced to display charismatic mating-plumage in the vicinity of an evident predator. She accepts his repeatedly-proffered berries--involuntary conspicuous consumption--as they wander the grounds:
   When she could consume no more of the strawberries he filled her little
   basket with them; and then the two passed round to the rose trees, whence
   he gathered blossoms and gave her to put in her bosom. She obeyed like one
   in a dream, and when she could affix no more he himself tucked a bud or two
   into her hat, and heaped her basket with others in the prodigality of his
   bounty. (P. 81)


D'Urberville's relationship with his natural habitat--using available flora to spectacularize his future prey, constructing a hyperreal simulacrum of Pluckable Maidenhood--could not be more at odds with Tess's. Her dreaminess is a species of vertigo masking despair; the autonomic shutdown of an aboriginal sensorium confronted with hyperaesthesia. She emerges from this hypnotic reverie later, during the van-ride home:
   She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered,
   though she answered them; and when they had started anew she rode along
   with an inward and not an outward eye.

      One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more pointedly than any
   had spoken before: "Why, you be quite a posy! And such roses in early
   June!"

      Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their surprised
   vision: roses at her breast; roses in her hat; roses and strawberries in
   her basket to the brim. She blushed and said confusedly that the flowers
   had been given to her. (P. 84)


If Tess here suffers the uneasiness of a woman who senses herself the future object of a possessional claim grounded in the superimposition of surplus value--a young woman, like virgin land, may be "developed" by a shrewd speculator--then her next encounter with Alec gives her little cause to relax. Forced to accept a job as poultry-keeper at The Slopes, Tess accepts a ride in Alec's fancy horse-driven gig; she manages, with the help of her surveying eyes, to maintain a tenuous connection with the homelands from which he is uprooting her: "Rising still, an immense landscape stretched around them on every side; behind, the green valley of her birth, before, a gray country of which she knew nothing except from her first brief visit to Trantridge" (p. 94). Then comes the plunge downhill, a terrifying blur which forces her to grab hold of him; he offers his waist as a substitute for the stabilizing terrain he's just deprived her of. "Let me put one little kiss on those holmberry lips, Tess!" he cries a moment later, revealing the true purpose of this uprooting (p. 96). Her agony is palpable; "inexorable," he gives her the same "kiss of mastery" his family has given the plot of land on which their business-sponsored pleasure-palace has been built.

Her response, characteristically, is twofold: to retreat into reverie as a way of undoing the damage ("[she] took out her handkerchief, and wiped the spot on her cheek that had been touched by his lips ... the act on her part had been unconsciously done" [pp. 96-97]), and to get out of the rig and walk. Walking and dreaming, out of doors, are the constituent modes of Tess's spirituality. She walks very little at Trantridge; Alec is always coming along and lifting her into his gig, lifting her onto his horse--a sham Sky Hero come to her rescue. The Stokes-d'Urbervilles, who have purchased the latter name and appended it to theirs as a way of mystifying industrial lucre with Norman prestige, have no connection with her putative ancestors; her pilgrimage to their doorstep is a stillborn Dream-Journey which ends with her rape in the densely-wooded Chase. Yet even in this moment of spiritual gloom Tess retains a measure of agency--wholly circumscribed, to be sure, but significant. Alec has abandoned her shortly before the rape takes place; the narrator paints her as an object which seems to dissolve beneath his brush: "With the setting of the moon the pale light lessened, and Tess became invisible as she fell into reverie upon the leaves where he had left her" (p. 118). Minutes later Alec returns, almost stumbling over her, and calls out her name. "There was no answer. The obscurity was now so great that he could see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves" (pp. 118-19). Granted that Tess's dissolution participates in the more generalized climate of moral obscurity into which she has been dragged; granted that her invisibility symbolizes grievous powerlessness: the fact remains that Tess's is a self-erasure, a chameleonic transformation which finds its closest parallel in the blending-in of a sea-skate with the ocean floor. The power of her reverie is such that in the elided moment of her actual rape she deprives Alec of mastery even as he seems to have achieved it:(21)
   Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer,
   and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a
   coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the coarse
   appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the woman, the wrong woman the
   man, many thousand years of analytical philosophy have failed to explain to
   our sense of order. (P. 119)


Where are those lips, that mouth? Those flashing eyes? Where is Tess? This is, late-Victorian literary mores notwithstanding, a remarkably unspectacular moment of possession-taking. Tess has somehow escaped, fled into a dream and left behind a gossamer spore-shroud.

Violence, nonetheless, has been done. What follows is a period of physical and spiritual retreat--home to Marlott--in which Tess desires "[t]o be as much out of observation as possible for reasons of her own" (p. 133). The pain wrought by having been rendered a spectacular object and then attacked has, we might say with Freud, transformed the male gaze for Tess from a quasi-danger situation into a thoroughgoing trauma situation.(22) Her response is a particular kind of therapeutic reimmersion in nature:
      The only exercise that Tess took at this time was after dark; and it was
   then, when out in the woods, that she seemed least solitary. She knew how
   to hit to a hair's-breadth that moment of evening when the light and the
   darkness are so evenly balanced that the constraint of day and the suspense
   of night neutralize each other, leaving absolute mental liberty. It is then
   that the plight of being alive becomes attenuated to its least possible
   dimensions ...

      On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was of a piece with
   the element she moved in. Her flexuous and stealthy figure became an
   integral part of the scene. At times her whimsical fancy would intensify
   natural processes around her till they seemed a part of her own story.
   Rather they became a part of it; for the world is only a psychological
   phenomenon, and what they seemed they were. The midnight airs and gusts,
   moaning amongst the tightly-wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, were
   formulae of bitter reproach. A wet day was the expression of irremediable
   grief at her weakness in the mind of some vague ethical being whom she
   could not class definitely as the God of her childhood, and could not
   comprehend as any other. (Pp. 134-35)


One has the sense here of Hardy playing out an idea--the Naturally Virtuous Woman, Unfairly Haunted By Shame, Refuses To Show Her Face In Public--without acknowledging the degree to which he has conspired with Alec in her construction as a sex-toy with inflatable lips; without understanding why the character he had created might prefer haunted near-invisibility to continued pained exposure; without understanding, in short, his own authorial sadism. Such unconscious authorial sadism (which has by this point accumulated a considerable body of critical commentary)(23) is nowhere more starkly exemplified than the moment when Alec, an apparently chastened and changed man, reenters Tess's life. No sooner do his eyes fall on her "familiar countenance and form" than he accuses her of looking at him with ill-intent. "[T]here was revived in her," Hardy tells us, "the wretched sentiment which had often come to her before, that in inhabiting the fleshly tabernacle with which nature had endowed her she was somehow doing wrong" (p. 388). Nature? Tess is what the Playboy philosophy used to call a good girl in a bad girl's body; this particular bunny, haunted and hunted, is all Tom's work. "As a writer of novels," Irving Howe observed at a more innocent cultural moment, "Thomas Hardy was endowed with a precious gift: he liked women."(24) He liked Tess enough, one is forced to admit, that he strove mightily to grant her the illusion of choosing her own fate, even as he endowed her with a "fleshly tabernacle" that would hurl her repeatedly into a perilous sexual economy.

III

"Wherever [an Aborigine] might happen to be in terms of tribal nomadic patterns," observes James Cowan, "he will always find himself in close proximity to his ancestors, to his Dreaming cult-heroes (Sky Heroes) and to his totemic birthplace. An Aborigine, even when he is physically alone, lives in, and is sustained by, a metaphysical community" (p. 118). As Tess prepares to leave Marlott for a milkmaid's job at Talbothays farm after several years of recuperative consolidation, she resolves that
   there should be no more d'Urberville air-castles in the dreams and deeds of
   her new life ... Yet such is human inconsistency that one of the interests
   of the new place to her was the accidental virtue of its lying near her
   forefathers' country ... [S]he wondered if any strange good thing might
   come to her being in her ancestral land; and some spirit within her rose
   automatically as the sap in the twigs. (P. 151)


The trip itself, which lasts only the space of a day, nevertheless constitutes a sort of Dream-Journey, a euphoric mapping on foot of self into terrain, sustained by an overarching quest for useful ancestry. That need leads Tess to think on the dead d'Urbervilles when she passes near their Kingsbere burial vaults early in her walk, then dismiss them as a useless burden even as she retains the tjuringa that binds her to them: "She had no admiration for them now; she almost hated them for the dance they had led her; not a thing of theirs did she retain but the old seal and spoon" (p. 156). She walks for miles, revels in unencumbered space. The glory of the day, above all, is the apparent escape it represents from male spectatorship:
   [T]he sense of being amid new scenes where there were no invidious eyes
   upon her, sent up her spirits wonderfully. Her hopes mingled with the
   sunshine in an ideal photosphere which surrounded her as she bounded along
   against the soft south wind. She heard a pleasant voice in every breeze,
   and in every bird's note seemed to lurk a joy. (P. 157)


The "ideal photosphere" is a double-edged figure, at once Tess's fantasy of unconstrainted daylight freedom (no lusty young men spying on me!) and the author's voyeuristic fantasy of perfect lighting conditions. "What he paints chiefly is light as modified by objects," Hardy had written of Turner's watercolor technique in 1889, and he might as well have been speaking of his own contemporaneous literary practice.(25) His fantasy immediately engages the narrator, who finds in the prettiness of Tess's face an exact representation of her spiritual condition:
   Her face had latterly changed with changing states of mind, continually
   fluctuating between beauty and ordinariness, according as the thoughts were
   gay or grave. One day she was pink and flawless; another pale and tragical.
   When she was pink she was feeling less than when pale; her more perfect
   beauty accorded with her less elevated mood; her more intense mood with her
   less perfect beauty. It was her best face physically that was now set
   against the south wind.


The logic here is as muddled as the calculus is perverse. Since we have just been told that Tess's glorious solitary afternoon out of doors has "sent up her spirits wonderfully"--meaning, we assume from this analysis, that she is currently in a beauty/gay/pink/flawless mode--how can she also be "feeling less than when pale"? Is "her less perfect beauty" the pale face or the pink face? If "her best face physically" is now set against the south wind, how is she feeling? If she is feeling terrific, why should we care how she looks? Here we have Hardy at his most ethically obtuse: reinscribing Alec d'Urberville's "bold rolling eye" in the narrative gaze at the very moment he treats his recuperating heroine to her first precious moment of al fresco privacy. Whatever sympathy leavens the narrator's scrutiny here hardly mitigates the novel's central project, which is to construct Tess as a kind of eroticized Little Baby Blush-a-Lot whose complexion can be deepened and mouth turned upward with the twist of an invisible authorial button.

Spied on or no, Tess will have her reverie. It is a crucial moment, the happiest she will ever be, a moment of supreme spiritual dilation. It is accompanied, not insignificantly, by song:
      And thus her spirits, and her thankfulness, and her hopes, rose higher
   and higher. She tried several ballads, but found them inadequate; till,
   recollecting the psalter that her eyes had so often wandered over of a
   Sunday morning before she had eaten of the tree of knowledge, she chanted:
   "O ye Sun and Moon ... O ye Stars ... ye Green Things upon the Earth ... ye
   Fowls of the Air ... Beasts and Cattle ... Children of Men ... bless ye the
   Lord, praise Him and magnify Him for ever!" She suddenly stopped and
   murmured: "But perhaps I don't quite know the Lord as yet."

      And probably the half-unconscious rhapsody was a Fetichistic utterance
   in a Monotheistic setting; women whose chief companions are the forms and
   forces of outdoor Nature retain in their souls far more of the Pagan
   fantasy of their remote forefathers than of the systematized religion aught
   their race at a later date. However, Tess found at least approximate
   expression for her feelings in the old Benedicte that she had lisped from
   infancy; and it was enough. (Pp. 157-58)


Here, in short, is Tess the supreme aboriginal liturgist, devising--as per Cowan--"a ceremony to embrace all aspects of Sky Hero activity," real and imagined. Where her father's drunken, decadent songline had led directly to the dead-end of the d'Urberville crypts, Tess has reached out and beyond--beyond even the tragic circle limned by the ballad-tradition she has inherited from her musical mother. "Aboriginal Creation myths," observes Chatwin, "tell of the legendary totemic beings who had wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path--birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes-and so singing the world into existence" (p. 2). For one sustained, healing moment, Tess has managed to evoke and interfuse herself with the "Pagan fantasy" of her "remote forefathers," a desperate late-Victorian reinvention of Aboriginal Dreamtime.

The "ideal photosphere" which had surrounded Tess now becomes the numen which binds her in glorious communion with her physical and metaphysical environment. I am thinking of a much-discussed moment shortly after Tess has arrived at Talbothays farm, when the entranced milkmaid is drawn helplessly--and surreptitiously--towards the music issuing from Angel Clare's harp:
      The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself had been left
   uncultivated for some years, and was now damp and rank with juicy grass
   which sent up mists of pollen at a touch; and with all blooming weeds
   emitting offensive smells--weeds whose red and yellow and purple hues
   formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated flowers. She went
   stealthily as a cat through this profusion of growth, gathering
   cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were underfoot, staining
   her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked
   arms sticky blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made
   madder stains on her skin; thus she drew quite near to Clare, still
   unobserved of him.

      Tess was conscious of neither time nor space. The exaltation which she
   had described as being producible at will by gazing at a star, came now
   without any determination of hers; she undulated upon the thin notes of the
   second-hand harp, and their harmonies passed like breezes through her,
   bringing tears into her eyes. The floating pollen seemed to be his notes
   made visible, and the dampness of the garden the weeping of the garden's
   sensibility. (Pp. 178-79)


What makes this passage so extraordinary is the absolute disjunction between how Tess experiences herself--as unobserved, disembodied soul, drawn in and embraced by nature in synaesthetic euphora--and how we experience her through the narrator: as completely and spectacularly exposed, extruded by the landscape in a hyperreal visual riot. Our voyeurism trumps hers, yet hers is in fact something very different from voyeurism. She is drawn forward, after all, by a desire to merge with an overheard melody, not to spy on its maker. One might almost describe her reverie as, in miniature, the Dream-Journey tracking of a suddenly-perceptible songline. The "floating pollen" which seems to be "his notes made visible" is merely one aspect of a more general lyric mapping of Talbothays terrain onto and through Tess's freshly en-souled body. "[The Aborigine's] landscape is an extended myth," insists Cowan. "He does not live `off' the land, but `in' a terrainian relationship with the otherworld, the Dreaming. His association with birds and animals also partakes of cofraternity, not separateness. These are a part of his totemic life, which means that their existence is an echo of his own" (pp. 122-23). The Tess who moves "stealthily as a cat" represents, by this conception, an evolved spirituality rather than the politically retrograde Natural Woman. She has Stealthy Cat Dreaming; she obeys its dictates when they present themselves.

It is Angel, by contrast, who is spiritually devolved, precisely because the visual hypertrophy from which he suffers as a member of the book-learned class makes him incapable of experiencing either Tess or the natural environment in which she swims without the distorting blinders of Christian moralism and Platonic idealism, not to mention the implacable male demand for female physical attractiveness. He selects Tess, we are told, "in preference to the other pretty milkmaids when he wished to contemplate contiguous womankind" (p. 176). His spiritual education at Talbothays, accordingly, will consist of a progressive shedding of his habits of abstraction in favor of direct, unmediated experience; an unlearning of received ideas about rustic ignorance. He is successful in every respect but one: the closer he draws to sympathetic and sensuous participation in Tess's world, the more helplessly his unreconstructed visual bias renders Tess a spectacular object of lust. His passion reaches a fever-pitch one day in midsummer, "a season when the rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss of fertilization" (p. 207). He's watching Tess, who is leaning her forehead against a cow's flank as she milks it, "her eyes fixed on the far end of the meadow with the quiet of one lost in meditation" (p. 208). Like the narrator in the "ideal photosphere" passage, Angel can't keep his eyes off her reverie:
      How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing etherial
   about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation. And it was
   in her mouth that this culminated ... [H]er mouth he had seen nothing to
   equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him
   that little upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was distracting,
   infatuating, maddening. He had never before seen a woman's lips and teeth
   which forced upon his mind with such persistent iteration the old
   Elizabethan simile of roses filled with snow ...

      Clare had studied the curves of those lips so many times that he could
   reproduce them mentally with ease; and now, as they again confronted him,
   clothed with colour and life, they sent an aura over his flesh, a breeze
   through his nerves, which wellnigh produced a qualm; and actually produced,
   by some mysterious physiological process, a prosaic sneeze. (Pp. 208-209)


That sneeze, we may fairly say, symbolizes the daylight equivalent of a nocturnal emission, a distinctly unmysterious culmination of pornographic autohypnosis. "Incarnation" is the magic word for this lapsing Platonist; Tess's lips are the spectacular embodiment of a particularly hungered-for form. They verily demand to be kissed, which is why Clare suddenly jumps up, draws Tess into his arms, and kisses them. A dreary and familiar narrative, claims Andrea Dworkin:
      The love of or desire for or obsession with a sexual object is, in male
   culture, seen as a response to the qualities of the object itself. Since
   the first preoccupation is with the form of the object, men make great
   claims for the particular forms that provoke lust or the ability to fuck in
   them. What Becker refers to as a dependable response pattern, in the field
   of sexual psychology, is most often called objectification. Objectification
   is the accomplished fact: an internalized, nearly invariable response to a
   form that is, in his estimation and experience, sufficiently whatever he
   needs to provoke arousal. The proper bounds of objectification as an
   appropriate response to an appropriate object are set by psychologists, the
   high priests of secular culture: the form of a woman, a composite of
   women's attributes, a part of a woman's body.(26)


Tess' lips, for example. A less invidious way of construing Angel's unmasterable desire is suggested by Camille Paglia:
      The anxiety in sexual experience [for men] remains as strong as ever.
   This man attempts to correct by the cult of female beauty. He is erotically
   fixated on woman's "shapeliness" ... By focusing on the shapely, by making
   woman a sex-object, man has struggled to fix and stabilize nature's
   dreadful flux. Objectification is conceptualization, the highest human
   faculty. Turning people into sex objects is one of the specialties of our
   race.(27)


Paglia's formulation suggests an intriguing line of thought: that the progressive collapse of Angel's Platonic certainties brought about by his unmediated immersion in "nature's dreadful flux" at Talbothays Farm--the "rush of juices," the "hiss of fertilization"--is what precipitates an extreme anxiety which must be fixed by his imaginative spectacularization of Tess. As Nature dissolves before his eyes into squishy, fungible glop, his neurotic need to conceptualize must find a new cathexis. As Nature's maw yawns, threatening to engulf him, he must recreate a safe, possessible alternative. Thus his waking wet-dream of holmberry-lipped Tess.

The notable instability of his imaginative construction--and the extraordinary cruelty latent in it--becomes visible in the dreadful aftermath of Tess's wedding-night confession that she is not, through no fault of her own, quite the Virginal Flower he thought she was: "He looked upon her as a species of impostor; a guilty woman in the guise of an innocent one. Terror was upon her white face as she saw it; her cheek was flaccid, and her mouth had almost the aspect of a round little hole. The horrible sense of his view of her so deadened her that she staggered" (p. 299). "His view of her" is literally that: a visual construction, the substitution of a horrifying spectacle for a lust-provoking one, and in this respect a vivid proof of the truth of Debord's formulation: spectacle as "a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself" The real Tess is deadened by this superimposition, staggered, effectively annihilated. Her pained warning shortly before the wedding-night revelation-"she you love is not my real self, but one in my image; the one I might have been!" (p. 281)--has been proven sadly prophetic. The "ideal photosphere" evaporates, leaving her world as devoid of numinous relatedness as his is lacking in spectacular focus.

"Thus Tess walks on," intones the narrator as she sets forth on yet another solitary cross-country journey, this one utterly bereft of Dreaming (p. 355). Her destination is Flintcomb-Ash farm, a "starve-acre place" of unremitting barrenness which seems both material insult added to spiritual injury and a perfect expression of that injury. If the Dreamtime in Aboriginal cosmology is a period when the Sky Heroes sing each feature of the landscape into being, the endless turnip-fields of Flintcomb-Ash seem to have been decreated, wiped clean of transcendental melody: "Each leaf of the vegetable having already been consumed, the whole field was in colour a desolate drab; it was a complexion without features, as if a face, from chin to brow, should be only an expanse of skin. The sky wore, in another colour, the same likeness; a white vacuity of countenance with the lineaments gone" (p. 360). "If a landscape becomes `dead' as a bearer of hiero-history," observes Cowan, "or when the animals have departed (a form of physical `deadness') because ritual life has abated, then a tribal territory is in danger of becoming a metaphysical desert ... Often it becomes `rubbish country,' a term Aborigines use to denote country devoid of its hiero-history" (p. 123). Flintcomb-Ash's status as rubbish-country evacuated of spiritual vitality derives directly, we are made to understand, from the curse of absentee ownership and the accompanying reduction of all human connectedness-with-the-land to the productive configurations of mechanized labor. To this extent Hardy's depiction of Greater Wessex reflects the more general historical displacement of Dorset's rural population from the land--a displacement which helps explain the spiritual kinship between his fictionalized countryfolk and the similarly-uprooted Australian Aborigines.(28) Yet even within such straitened circumstances--or perhaps because of them--Tess and her fellow toiler Marian are able to preserve a space for reverie, albeit one unknowingly pressured by Hardy's ever-surveillant narrator: "They worked on hour after hour, unconscious of the forlorn aspect they bore in the landscape, not thinking of the justice or injustice of their lot. Even in such a position as theirs it was possible to exist in a dream" (p. 361). That dream-spell is broken by the reappearance of Alec d'Urberville--incompletely converted from reckless rake to fanatic preacher-and his profoundly ennervating reimposition of spectatorial hungers. "[T]he moment that she moved ... he recognized her. The effect upon her old lover was electric ... She went on without turning her head. Her back seemed to be endowed with a sensitiveness to ocular beams--even her clothing--so alive was she to a fancied gaze which might be resting upon her" (pp. 384-85). Within days he has tracked and cornered her, helpless in the throes of his resurgent obsession. "[Y]ou," he tells Tess, "have been the means--the innocent means--of my backsliding, as they call it ... I was firm as a man could be till I saw those eyes and that mouth again--surely there never was such a maddening mouth since Eve's!" (p. 402). This transference of blame--the process of projection and mystification by which woman is transformed into a charismatic assemblage of body parts which demands to be possessed--has long been the gesture by which anxious masculinity is consolidated. "It is taken for granted [in male culture]," notes Dworkin, "that a sexual response is an objectified response: that is, a response aroused by an object with specific attributes that in themselves provoke sexual desire" (p. 113).

Such a logic, followed to its conclusion, leads to the death-in-life which a reformed but broken Angel Clare discovers when he catches up with Tess in the resort town of Sandbourne, the "glittering novelty" of a "pleasure city" where Alec's kisses of mastery have installed her. The overt spectacularization of her looks unnerves him: "Her great natural beauty was, if not heightened, rendered more obvious by her attire" (p. 465). Her eyes are "shining unnaturally" (p. 466). More shocking is what seems to him the near-total divorce of her spirit from her body, a radical de-incarnation: "[H]is original Tess had spiritually ceased to recognize the body before him as hers--allowing it to drift, like a corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated from its living will" (p. 467). The tortuousness of this formulation--why not "ceased to recognize her body as her own"?--shows us a Tess renouncing all male gazes, Angel's included, at the very moment his observation of "the body before him" insists on reinscribing her objectification by producing her as visible solid. Her Dream-Journey, overtaken by male desire and economic necessity, has terminated in paralysis, decay, spiritual annihilation.

It is at this moment, when all avenues of escape seem to have been closed off by fate, that "Hardy's original strong Tess," as Rosmarie Morgan has called her, manages to resurrect herself.(29) "Resurrect" may seem too strong a word for an action-the murder of Alec d'Urberville and escape with Angel--which will lead within a week to Tess's recapture and eventual hanging. Some might have preferred a third alternative, Tess neither kept nor dead at the novel's conclusion. What the ending at Stonehenge offers us, I suggest, is a Tess who has miraculously fought her way back into contact with what turns out to have been her true ancestral songline all along; a Tess whose death, while tragic in the sense of grossly premature, is nevertheless the ritual completion of a spiritual quest that she has been pursuing, if not always consciously then with fortuitous intuition, since the novel's opening pages. This quest, it should be noted, has nothing to do with Angel Clare; the "marriage-of-true-minds" plot, by which Tess murders Alec in a spasm of agonized resurgent love for Angel, is merely the mechanism for freeing her to resume a Dream Journey from which both men are, albeit in different ways, wholesale distractions.

Tess's murder of Alec in the hotel room at Sandbourne we are not shown; what we are shown, courtesy of the peeping eyes of their hostess Mrs. Brooks, are keyhole glimpses of the keening Tess. "It was from her lips that came the murmur of unspeakable despair" (p. 469). Those lips, so long the spectacularized focus of narrative and male-suitor voyeurship, are suddenly reclaimed by their owner, forced to speak a grief that is at least in part a direct result of such voyeurship. If Alec would own Tess by the sheer force of the heavily-capitalized gaze within which he imprisons her, she will free herself by mutilating the pristine surface on which that gaze (and the narrator's) rests: "In writhing, with her head on the chair, she turned her face towards the door, and Mrs Brooks could see the pain upon it; and that her lips were bleeding from the clench of her teeth upon them" (p. 469). She murders Alec a moment later, quietly and unobserved. She sets off after Angel, rejoining him on the open highway. The simple fact of having emerged from indoor confines seems to have strikingly revivified Tess, given her what Cowan identifies among the Aborigines as "a body perfectly adapted to spaciousness."(30) "I feel strong enough to walk any distance," she tells Angel after lunch (p. 477). After a five-day idyll in an abandoned mansion, their flight continues with Tess as guide. "To walk across country without much regard to roads was not new to Tess, and she showed her old agility in the performance" (p. 483). "Aboriginals," notes Chatwin, "... could not imagine territory as a block of land hemmed in by frontiers: but rather as an interlocking network of `lines' or `ways through'" (p. 56). The songline Tess and Angel have been tracing as darkness falls, it turns out, is Stonehenge:
      They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles further when on a
   sudden Clare became conscious of some vast erection close in his front,
   rising sheer from the grass. They had almost struck themselves against it.

      "What monstrous place is this?" said Angel.

      "It hums," said she. "Hearken!"

      He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming
   tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. (P. 483)


"`Older than the centuries; older than the d'Durbervilles!'" Angel cries. To which Tess responds: "`One of my mother's people was a shepherd hereabouts, now I think of it. And you used to say at Talbothays that I was a heathen. So now I am at home'" (p. 484). In forsaking the paternal burial vaults at Kingsbere for the maternal monoliths at Stonehenge, Tess has improvised a fascinating variation on what Chatwin calls the Aboriginal "question of dual paternity." A man, he observes,
   knew very well who his father was. Yet there was, in addition, a kind of
   parallel paternity which tied his soul to one particular point in the
   landscape.

      Each ancestor, while singing his way across country, was believed to
   have left a trail of "life-cells" or "spirit-children" along the line of
   his footprints. (P. 60)


Stonehenge is Tess's Uluru (Ayer's Rock), a terrainian point of ancestral and spiritual convergence, Home Base on the cosmological map. Her Dream-Journey has come to an end, which is why sleepiness suddenly overtakes her. "`I like very much to be here,' she murmured. `It is so solemn and lonely--after my great happiness--with nothing but the sky above my face'" (p. 485). She falls asleep shortly before dawn, when a band of pursuers emerges from the countryside to bring her in. They allow her to sleep on for a few moments before the sun pushes under her eyelids. Those spectacular lips, cause of so much of her grief, are nowhere to be found in these final pages, as though some escape from burdening embodiment has finally been achieved. Her last words, as she walks forward towards her pursuers, are "I am ready" (p. 487). This is great theater, of course, which detracts in no way from the essential integrity of the journey Tess has made. "[T]he mystics," writes Chatwin,
   believe the ideal man shall walk himself to a "right death." He who has
   arrived "goes back."

      In Aboriginal Australia, there are specific rules for "going back" or,
   rather, for singing your way to where you belong: to your "conception
   site," to the place where your tjuringa is stored. Only then can you
   become--or re-become--the Ancestor. (P. 293)


Late Victorian Wessex was not Australia; Tess had been given no rules for "going back." Forced to improvise, repeatedly sidetracked by an economy of male desire in which her spectacular good looks were deadly currency, she manages to walk herself to the rightest available death. Her spiritual economy triumphs as the bearer of it is extinguished: a familiar theme in the West's various narratives of colonial expansion and tribal sundown, no cause for celebration, but a small and important victory even so.

NOTES

(1) Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines (1987; reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1988), p. 4.

(2) Mowbray Morris, anonymous review of Tess in Quarterly Review, April 1892, Michael Millgate, Thomas Hardy: His Career as a Novelist (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 287.

(3) The phrase "charismatic megafauna" I take from Albert Borgmann's essay, "The Nature of Reality and the Reality of Nature," Reinventing Nature?: Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction, ed. Michael E. Soule and Gary Lease, illus. Alan Gussow (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1995), p. 36.

(4) For a critique of the various claims for Tess's passivity, see Rosemarie Morgan, "Passive Victim?: Tess of the d'Urbervilles," The Thomas Hardy Journal 5 (1989): 28-46.

(5) Penny Boumelha, Thomas Hardy and Women: Sexual Ideology and Narrative Form (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1982), p. 121.

(6) Mary Jacobus, quoted in Bourmelha, Thomas Hardy and Women, p. 121.

(7) For a brief, skeptical survey of Tess-as-Nature and Hardy-as-sadist readings of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, see Robert Schweik, "Less than Faithfully Presented: Fictions in Modern Commentaries on Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles," New Perspectives on Thomas Hardy, ed. Charles P.C. Pettit (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994), pp. 33-56. For other recent surveys of feminist scholarship on Hardy, see The Sense of Sex: Feminist Perspectives on Hardy, ed. Margaret R. Higonnet (Urbana & Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1993) and Patricia Ingham, Thomas Hardy (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990). In "Hardy's Tess and `The Photograph': Images to Die for," Criticism 35 (1993): 616, 618, Julie Grossman reads Tess's dreamy self-liquidation into the natural world as liberating rather than retrograde, a way of "escaping entrapment by public surveillance [i.e., the devouring male gaze] through an heroic stance of passivity" (p. 618). This passivity, according to Grossman, is Hardy's way of constituting Tess "as an artistic subject, imaginative creator of other than male-defined possibilities for her self" (p. 616).

(8) Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891; New York: Penguin, 1981), pp. 137-38. All subsequent citations are from this edition.

(9) See Grossman (n. 7), esp. pp. 617-619, for a discussion of the way in which Hardy's portrait of Tess reflects both his anxiety about being "an object of public inspection" as a novelist and guilt at having projected that anxiety into his "guilty" heroine on whom all eyes feast.

(10) See, for example, Laura Otis, Organic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1994), p. 172: "The Tess Angel finally abandons is a palimpsest, a body onto which a variety of texts have been inscribed, none of which do justice to the woman bearing them."

(11) Leslie Silko, "Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination," On Nature, ed. Daniel Halpern (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1987), p. 84.

(12) For a discussion of the contemporary cultural context within which Hardy's novelistic dialogue of "modern rationalism and primitive perception" (such as Tess's personification of the landscape) was situated, see Patricia O'Hara, "Narrating the Native: Victorian Anthropology and Hardy's The Return of the Native," Nineteenth-Century Contexts 20 (1997): 147-63. Victorian evolutionary anthropologists such as E. B. Tylor, according to O'Hara, "insisted upon an essential difference between the ancient mythmaker, who believed in the reality of his personification, and the modern writer [such as Hardy], whose analogies `are but fancies': `[Men of past ages] heard the voices of the hill-dwarfs answering in the echo, and the chariot of the Heaven-god rattling in thunder over the solid firmament ... [W]hat we call poetry was to them real life, not as to the modern versemaker a masquerade of gods and heroes'" (p. 150).

(13) James Cowan, Mysteries of the Dream-Time: The Spiritual Life of Australian Aborigines (1989; Dorset, UK: Prism Press, 1992); Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson Smith (1967; reprint, New York: Zone Books, 1994).

(14) Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding (1986; New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 274.

(15) Hardy himself seems to have engaged in a kind of ritual reunification with his Dreaming prior to writing Tess, complete with rhythmic utterance. "Hardy," writes Laura Otis, "the descendant of masons and peasants, fancied himself a member of the ancient Jersey Le Hardy family, `an old family of spent social energies,' and at one point was considering restoring the `le' to his name ... Before writing Tess of the d'Urbervilles, he made a pilgrimage to his ancestors' villages and remarked sadly about his family, `So we go down, down, down.' He even commented that he would have called his novel `Tess of the Hardys' if it had not seemed too personal" (Organic Memory, p. 158).

(16) See Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962; New York: Signet Books, 1969).

(17) Mowbray Morris, letter to Thomas Hardy, 25 November 1889, Thomas Hardy, Michael Millgate, p. 285. For more on Tess as eroticized visual object, see Cathy Lynn Preston, "Writing the Hybrid Body: Thomas Hardy and the Ethnographic `Money Shot,'" Folklore, Literature, and Cultural Theory, ed. Cathy Lynn Preston (New York: Garland, 1995), pp. 43-82.

(18) Thomas Hardy, quoted in Florence Emily Hardy, The Early Life of Thomas Hardy: 1840-1891 (London: Macmillan, 1928), p. 299.

(19) Debord, pp. 16, 125.

(20) For a discussion of the way in which ownership of a masculine gaze in Hardy is culturally--rather than biologically--determined, a marker of social empowerment available to the woman of property, see Daryl Ogden, "Bathsheba's Visual Estate: Female Spectatorship in Far From the Maddening Crowd," The Journal of Narrative Technique 23 (1993): 1-15.

(21) That Hardy intended to depict Tess's rape, rather than seduction, is evident in the novel's first (1891) edition, according to William A. Davis, Jr.; Hardy toned down the criminal aspects of the assault in later editions. See William A. Davis, Jr., "The Rape of Tess: Hardy, English Law, and the Case for Sexual Assault," Nineteenth-Century Literature 52 (1997): 221-31.

(22) Sigmund Freud, "Supplementary Remarks on Anxiety," Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, rev. and ed. James Strachey (1925; New York: W. W. Norton, 1989), pp. 100-105.

(23) See, for example, Mary Childers, "The Man Who `Liked' Women," Criticism 23 (1981): 317-34: "Tess's circumstances are ... sadistically enjoyed," and James Kincaid, "`You Did Not Come': Absence, Death and Eroticism in Tess," Sex and Death in Victorian Literature, ed. Regina Barreca (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990), p. 14: "We are all of us Alecs, Angels, Hardys ... We are all sadists, producing images or cadavers to induce sexually titillating pain."

(24) Irving Howe, Thomas Hardy (New York: Macmillan, 1967), p. 108.

(25) Thomas Hardy, quoted in J. B. Bullen, The Expressive Eye: Fiction and Perception in the Work of Thomas Hardy (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), p. 197.

(26) Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1980; New York: Dutton, 1981), p. 113.

(27) Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990; New York: Vintage Books, 1991), p. 30.

(28) See George Wotton, Thomas Hardy: Towards a Materialist Criticism (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1985), pp. 15-25.

(29) Rosmarie Morgan, Women and Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hard), (New York: Routledge, 1988), p. 85.

(30) Cowan, p. 90.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Johns Hopkins University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:GUSSOW, ADAM
Publication:Studies in the Novel
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 22, 2000
Words:10166
Previous Article:JOSEPH CONRAD'S "SUDDEN HOLES" IN TIME: THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF TEMPORALITY.
Next Article:"WHEN SOMETIMES SHE IMAGINED HERSELF LIKE HER MOTHER": THE CONTRASTING RESPONSES OF CAM AND MRS. RAMSAY TO THE ROLE OF THE ANGEL IN THE HOUSE.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters