Anyone who has read Tess of the d’Urbervilles (and certainly any modern criticism about it) will be in no doubt that the novel is emphatically visual in many of its effects. There are those famous set-piece ‘descriptions’ of rural Wessex (not quite Dorset, let us remember); the inescapably scenic moments, such as the May-dance at Marlott as the novel opens or sunrise at Stonehenge towards the end, which render talk about Hardy’s proto-cinematic techniques more than merely chic; and the narrative’s obsessive voyeuristic gazing at Tess herself (especially that famous ‘mobile peony mouth’1) which has made so many readers wonder a little about Thomas Hardy. But there is also a great deal of visual imagery in the novel of a rather more self-reflexive sort — a kind of metadiscourse about looking, seeing, perception, representation, imaging.
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- ‘Moments of Vision’: Postmodernizing Tess of the d ’ Urbervilles ; or, Tess of the d ’ Urbervilles Faithfully Presented by Peter Widdowson (1994)
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