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CENTRAL TO THE EFFORTS OF SOME MAJOR HARDY CRITICS TO PROMOTE THEIR varied theoretical agendas in recent decades has been a shared emphasis on the affinities and influence linking the poetry of Percy Shelley to that of Thomas Hardy. Poet-critic Joseph Brodsky thinks that if T. S. Eliot had read Hardy instead of Laforgue, English poetical history in this century "might be somewhat more absorbing": "For one thing, where Eliot needs a handful of dust to perceive terror, for Hardy, as he shows in 'Shelley's Skylark,' a pinch is enough." (1) Since Brodsky has written his Hardy essay largely to defend the sort of traditional verse craft he personally excels in, the Shelley-Hardy "pinch" may symbolize what Brodsky considers the more-than-Eliotic emotional power of these two kindred poets' technical mastery and Brodsky-like formal control. For J. Hillis Miller, by contrast, Shelley is Hardy's worthy precursor as Millerian deconstructor. Hardy's work "might almost be defined as from beginning to end a large-scale inte rpretation of Shelley, one of the best and strongest we have," offering "a double reading of Shelley," seeing him "as both idealist" and "skeptic," much the same kind of open-ended deconstructor as Hardy, or as Miller himself. (2) For Harold Bloom, finally, Hardy (grouped with Wallace Stevens as the only two "strong poets" writing in English during the twentieth century) has Shelley as his "prime precursor." (3) Hardy's "During Wind and Rain, as good a poem as our century has given us," is "grandchild of the Ode to the West Wind" (Misreading, p. 20). As Bloom sees it, the influence between these two strong poets "works in the depths, as all love antithetically works" (Misreading, p. 21). The Shelley-Hardy dynamic of attachment and rebellion is presented as a revealingly pervasive instance of the Bloomian father-son effect of anxiety-arousing influence. For the neo-Freudian Bloom, as for the formal traditionalist Brodsky and the deconstructive Miller, Shelley and Hardy are poets of a very high order, and the depth of their kinship will add conviction to whatever literary theory it is taken to illustrate.

Professional & Technical
22 June
West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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