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Thomas Hardy’s Impulse: Context and the Counterfactual Imagination

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacob Jewusiak



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Focusing on the impulsive act, this essay analyzes the relationship between the temporality of decision making and the determination of social context in Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes (1873), The Woodlanders (1887), and Tess of the D’Urbervilles(1891). While critics often note the entrapment of Hardy's characters in contexts such as social class and gender, this article contends that the impulsive act can only be explained contextually after it has already occurred. The irreducibility of the impulsive act to a rational explanation (social or natural determinism, historical necessity) gives rise to a counterfactual imagination that feeds off the contingency of a decision that might have been made differently or not at all. The power of these counterfactuals attests to a shift in the centre of agency away from the urgency of decision making to the more reflective, imaginative rewriting of a past that could have been. By doing so, Hardy's characters exhibit the most agency when they act like authors, viewing themselves as fictional characters that can be written or rewritten.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jewusiak J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Textual Practice

Year: 2020

Volume: 34

Issue: 3

Pages: 461-478

Online publication date: 09/08/2018

Acceptance date: 01/03/2018

Date deposited: 19/11/2020

ISSN (print): 0950-236X

ISSN (electronic): 1470-1308

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/0950236X.2018.1508493


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