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Hardy, Conrad and the Senses$
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Hugh Epstein

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474449861

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474449861.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 05 July 2022

The Visible World

The Visible World

(p.79) Chapter Three The Visible World
Hardy, Conrad and the Senses

Hugh Epstein

Edinburgh University Press

This two-part chapter, underpinned by nineteenth-century theories of light and vision and the empirical researches of Hermann von Helmholtz, is primarily concerned with light and its disclosures, first as it operates in the physics of two major novels, Far From the Madding Crowd and Lord Jim, and then its place in the act of seeing as explored in two less widely read works, A Laodicean and ‘The End of the Tether’. The discussion of Far From the Madding Crowd shows that the medium of light is an agent in extending perception in a scene beyond the ‘comings in’ of a particular eye. Light in Lord Jim bears a more metaphysical significance, and is associated with the search for a single unifying truth which in contemporary physics was found in the luminiferous ether. The lighting of various scenes continually poses the question: in what medium can the truth of Jim’s reality be found? The characters in A Laodicean and ‘The End of the Tether’ seek ‘the cogency of direct vision’, but only find insight, as with Helmholtz’s optics, by indirection. The appetite of the eye is not in these novels, whether comic or tragic, granted natural and uncomplicated gratification by the light that falls upon it.

Keywords:   Light, Medium, Helmholtz, Perception, Eye, Physics, Ether, Truth, Seeing, Insight

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