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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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Identity and Margin

Identity and Margin

(p.193) Chapter Five Identity and Margin
Hardy, Conrad and the Senses

Hugh Epstein

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the three great mature works in which Hardy and Conrad most fully explore the indeterminate sensory boundaries between individual organisms and their circumambient world. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Nostromo are seen to create margins within which the conventional relations between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds are reimagined. The Mayor is shown to provide two ways of finding identity in the world – that of Elizabeth Jane and that of Henchard – which is illuminated by G. H. Lewes’s discussion of Vorstellung and Empfindung. The intensity of Tess’s sensory participation in the energies of the world of Talbothays is seen to correspond to the revolutionary study of physics and the senses conducted by Ernst Mach. The tragedy of Tess lies in the extinction of this plenitude by the atomising mechanised forces of modern society. In Nostromo, individual identity is called upon to face nature’s silence, and the chapter examines the different courses of Nostromo and Decoud in doing so. Whilst Hardy is drawn to propagation of energies, Conrad’s novel concerns resistance to disintegration, but both authors are shown to establish a new relationship between psychological and material space.

Keywords:   Boundary, Identity, Margin, Inner life, G. H. Lewes, Ernst Mach, Sensation, Energy, Force, Silence, Disintegration

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