Far from the Madding Crowd and the Cultural Politics of Serialization

Far from the Madding Crowd and the Cultural Politics of Serialization
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    "Far from the Madding Crowd" and the Cultural Politics of SerializationAuthor(s): Bonnie GerardSource: Victorian Periodicals Review,  Vol. 30, No. 4 (Winter, 1997), pp. 331-349Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the Research Society forVictorian PeriodicalsStable URL: 20-07-2017 00:45 UTC   JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusteddigital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information aboutJSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, The Johns Hopkins University Press  arecollaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Victorian Periodicals Review  This content downloaded from on Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:45:29 UTCAll use subject to   Far from the Madding Crowd and the  Cultural Politics of Serialization  BONNIE GERARD  cent scholarship in the field of postcolonial studies has suggested  new possibilities for the study of nineteenth-century novels published in  periodicals. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), Edward Said challenges readers to explore and expose the nineteenth-century English novel's  imperialistic attitudes and practices by engaging texts, not univocally, but  contrapuntally. 1 Central to Said's contrapuntal hermeneutic is the idea  that the novel is not just a single, uncontested voice, but rather one voice  in a multicultural conversation. By examining novels in the context of dis courses both in and around them, critics can interrogate the cultural hege  mony of western texts that have long been allowed to stand, unexamined  and, presumably, unchanged, as well as appreciate these texts' subvocal  protests against their own imperial selves.2 Perhaps in no other linguistic  medium can critics begin to explore the cultural function of Western liter  ary humanist novels with as much intertextual richness and multivocality as in the nineteenth-century periodical press. As a result of the common  practice of serialization, a vast number of Victorian novels emerged in magazine issues. That is, they initially appeared not as whole, unified  texts, but as multiple small texts, each attempting to secure a small portion  of a highly contested discursive space.3 Fragmented, supplemented, extended and extenuated, the serial novel's parts spoke as individual  voices, unaccompanied by the voice of the novel as a whole, in the serial's  ongoing cultural conversation rich with ideological contradictions and  negotiations. Laurel Brake and Anne Humphreys describe the interaction  between the various texts within a periodical issue as a conversation. This  intertextual conversation, they suggest, is one in which Bakhtin's theories  of the 'dialogical' (i.e. interactive) nature of utterance and of 'hetero glossia' - dissonances among competing languages are ideally exempli  fied. 4 Linda Hughes and Michael Lund add that a novel's serial part was  R This content downloaded from on Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:45:29 UTCAll use subject to   332 Victorian Periodicals Review 30:4 Winter 1997  surrounded by other stories - political, historical, scientific - on neigh  boring pages, and that this intertextuality created a reading process that  embedded [a novel] in a specific material framework that shaped  response. 5 While many of these novels went on to enjoy widespread  popularity in volume form shortly after their initial appearance in serial, the sociohistorical condition of serialization under which they first capti  vated the public's imagination largely determined the ideological incep  tion of what Jerome McGann refers to as their life histories. 6  Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, serialized in The  Cornhill magazine in 1874, offers an intriguing study of the effects of serial intertextuality on a novel's ideological structures of attitude and  reference. 7 These effects are particularly provocative given the novel's  significance as a part of Hardy's literary contribution to the project of  nineteenth-century liberal humanism.8 Like his predecessor George Eliot,  whose early novels {Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (i860) and  Silas Marner (1861)) appealed to a sense of common humanity by evoking conventional pastoral images and tropes, Hardy turned to pastoralism as  a literary landscape for his humanist ideals.9 For Hardy, the pastoral mode provided something of an antidote to the ache of modernism by constructing what Michael Moses calls an imaginative bulwark against the globalizing and homogenizing tendencies of modernity. 10 During a time of vast historical discontinuity and change, Hardy explored, with occasional uncertainty and increasing irony, the power of the English community to sustain what he regarded as the more humane values and  ideals of a lost human unity. 11 But postcolonialists find the pastoral  tradition's parochialism ethically detrimental to a truly humanist project.  Said argues that the English identity constructed by the nineteenth  century humanist novel relies upon an orientalizing spatial moral  order, a world view that often encodes moral judgments in terms of cul tural and racial difference.12 Chandra Mohanty agrees, finding humanist novelists guilty of imperial racism, a cultural short-sightedness she terms  ethnocentric universalism. For Mohanty, Western humanist novelists  like Hardy behave ethnocentrically when they set up their own authorial  subjects as the implicit referent. . . the yardstick by which to encode and represent cultural Others. 13 Pastoralism, in particular, troubles postcolo  nialists because of its hubristic representation of human-ness in Western  forms. Specifically, the pastoral mode privileges a classical image of  human simplicity and innocence, overlaid with Christian images drawn from a long Edenic tradition that has found expression in every era of  Western art, beginning with the classical poetry of Virgil and Theocritus  and evolving through Sidney's Arcadia, Rousseau's l'homme de la nature et de la v?rit? and the moral Nature of Wordsworth's The Prelude and  Tintern Abbey. The ethnocentrism of these images of human goodness This content downloaded from on Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:45:29 UTCAll use subject to   BONNIE GER RD  333  is twofold: first, it displaces particularly un-English qualities, like  uncivilized behavior, onto foreign figures and grounds; second, it depicts Englishness within an insular rural space protected from a threatening  sense of out there and abroad. In short, the pastoral humanist casu  ally appropriates imperial spaces and figures in ethnocentric English artic  ulations of self.14 The result for Said, Mohanty, and others is a hypo critical humanism that dispenses purportedly universal sympathy only  within racially and culturally circumscribed borders. To study the Cornhill context of Far from the Madding Crowd is to be  confronted with several compelling questions about the implications of  the periodical's multivocal conversation for the project of nineteenth-cen  tury liberal humanism in a progressive, industrial, imperial context. What,  for example, might have been the effect on the reception of Hardy's pas  toralism given that for six months prior to and six months during its serial  publication readers were embroiled in Grenville Murray's Young Brown,  a novel chronicling a British hero's imperial adventures? How comfort  ably do the metaphoric, and ideological, worlds evoked by the two very  different novels inhabit the same textual space? One serial part of Hardy's  pastoral novel appeared in the same issue as an anti-pastoral essay by  Kegan Paul exposing the real plight of farm labourers in rural England.  What might have been the result of this de-mystifying and de-idealizing tract on Hardy's readers' willingness to suspend disbelief upon entering  the largely idealized world of Weatherbury each month? Two more  essays, one interrogating the myth of a golden age past, and the other  offering casual deliberation over the advantages and disadvantages of town compared to country life, likewise trouble the reception of what readers envisioned as Hardy's idealized pastoral world, embedding its  metaphoric structures within conversations that suggest its implication in ideologies, not only of empire, but of gender and class, as well. The inevi table effect of the Cornhill intertextual conversation on Hardy's novel, as  I will argue, is to suggest the inextricability of pastoralism from other  Victorian ideologies that contradict pastoralism's allegedly humanistic  project. By entangling an otherwise aesthetically removed pastoral narra  tive within a web of texts betraying pastoralism's participation in a mod  ern, global world, the process of serialization reveals that even a  politically regressive cultural project can underwrite progressive ideologi cal projects that perpetuate social, economic, and ethnic injustice.  In Criticism and Ideology, Terry Eagleton explores Thomas Hardy's career as a pastoralist in a brief case study of the relationship between texts and their ideologies. He begins with Under the Greenwood Tree  (1872), which, he argues, both produces a 'pastoral' ideology and at the This content downloaded from on Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:45:29 UTCAll use subject to   334 Victorian Periodicals Review 30:4 Winter 1997  same time displays its limits. 15 Of those limits, the social mobility, dis  ruption and dissolution signalled by the threat of Fancy Day's entangle  ment with the worldly Farmer Shiner and Vicar Maybold, and by the  impending doom of the Mellstock Quire, reveal Hardy's sense of the pas  toral's inability to accommodate the changes brought about by industrial  ization and globalization.16 Hardy's remote corner of England in Under  the Greenwood Tree is not overtly acknowledged by the pastoralist as a part of the larger global community, but Shiner and Maybold betoken a  vague sense of threat to the pastoral world posed by the broader world of  English industrial and international existence.17 With Far from the Mad  ding Crowd (1874), Hardy's pastoral ideology admits of the progressive  English global experience more directly and with increasing irony. Eagle ton argues that in Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy throws [pasto ralism] into radical self-question, only to affirm it in the end through the restoration of social harmony. I would suggest, further, that by ges turing towards the world beyond pastoralism's limits, Hardy's radical questioning of a regressive pastoralism's encounter with progressive  nineteenth-century -isms (industrialism, imperialism) ends as he attempts  to contain the threat of progress and change within pastoral aesthetic  structures.  Hardy betrays the uncertainty with which his pastoral world encoun ters historical change in many of the novel's parts. If Bathsheba Ever  dene's Weatherbury bower had once been the manorial hall upon a  small estate around it, now it is altogether effaced as a distinct property  and merged into the vast tract of a non-resident landlord. 18 Commercial  ism has transformed small farming communities, inflicting strange deformities, tremendous paralyses upon traditional architectural struc  tures (258). Gabriel Oak remarks to the farming men that his old home stead is altered very much, and the men reply that these are stirring  times we live in - stirring times (388). Certainly, the novel is not as far  from the madding crowd of modernity as its title suggests. And yet Hardy continues to cling to pastoral structures, at times even naively. Perhaps no other scene in the novel better illustrates this ideological  dynamic of threat and containment than the Great Barn scene in part five.  It is in Hardy's philosophical pondering upon the idyllic scene that we can detect subtle ironies suggestive of the anxiety with which Hardy  manipulates conventional pastoral representations, both aesthetically and  ideologically. The barn itself, for the pastoral artist, represents historical continuity in the face of social upheaval. By remarking that it resembled  a church with transepts, Hardy begins a condemnatory comparison  between farming and medieval Christianity as social institutions (519).  Both structures, and therefore both institutions, share an equal claim to historical authority: the barn not only emulated the form of the neigh This content downloaded from on Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:45:29 UTCAll use subject to
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