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Thomas Hardy's Shorter Fiction

A Critical Study

Sophie Gilmartin, Rod Mengham

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Provides a comprehensive criticism of Hardy’s entire output of short stories

This critical study of Hardy's short stories provides a thorough account of the ruling preoccupations and recurrent writing strategies of his entire corpus as well as providing detailed readings of several individual texts. It relates the formal choices imposed on Hardy as contributor to Blackwood's Magazine and other periodicals to the methods he employed to encode in fiction his troubled attitude towards the social politics of the West Country, where most of the stories are set. No previous criticism has shown how the powerful challenges to the reader mounted in Hardy's later stories reveal the complexity of his motivations during a period when he was moving progressively in the direction of exchanging fiction for poetry.

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About the Author

Sophie Gilmartin is Reader in English at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Rod Mengham is Reader in English Literature at the University of Cambridge where he is a Fellow in English and Curator of Works of Art at Jesus College. He is the author of books on Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Henry Green and The Descent of Language. He has edited or co-edited three collections of essays on contemporary fiction, two collections on Australian poetry, and single volumes on the fiction of th 1940s, and on violence and avant-garde art.


Thomas Hardy’s Shorter Fiction is a welcome and indeed necessary addition to Hardy studies. Through a series of subtle and illuminating accounts of Hardy’s four volumes of stories, it explores issues of history and social change, human embodiment in time and space, and the relation of author, narrator and reader, that resonate across the whole range of Hardy’s prose fiction. Rod Mengham and Sophie Gilmartin make an unanswerable case for the significance of the short story to our understanding of Hardy’s writing. Where they have led, others will surely follow.

- Phillip Mallett, University of St Andrews

Thomas Hardy’s Shorter Fiction is the first detailed critical study of Hardy’s considerable contribution to the genre since Kristin Brady’s groundbreaking The Short Stories of Thomas Hardy (1982.) It makes a deeply considered, impeccably argued and persuasive case for the importance of this somewhat neglected area of Hardy’s work, placing him in the vanguard of twentieth-century short story writers – where he belongs. A must for all serious scholars and students of his oeuvre.

- Jane Thomas, University of Hull

Gilmartin/Mengham’s Thomas Hardy’s Shorter Fiction is by far the best book on its subject. Hardy’s stories are taught all over the world. They have great power and interest. One of the important insights of this book is that Hardy’s collections of short stories are not just random assemblages, but that each has an inner coherence and sequence. It is an extremely distinguished book.

- J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine