It is a commonplace of literary criticism that ‘major author X’ was a ‘transitional’ writer who lived and worked in a ‘transitional’ period. This does not get us very far, however, since all periods are, in the nature of historical process, transitional; and all major writers, by dint of their perceived majority, will also be transitional in that they modify by innovation the literary culture of which they are a part. As Thomas Hardy has so often been awarded the ‘transitional’ accolade, we may ask: is it any more illuminating in relation to him than it is to anyone else?
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