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Descrição da editora
Jude the Obscure is not only Thomas Hardy's last but probably also his bleakest novel. Already its epigram on the frontispiece--namely "The letter killeth [but the spirit giveth life]"--can be read as having negative forebodings; it can, however, also be interpreted as a commentary on the 'nature' of language and on the absolute necessity of understanding its founding mechanisms such as absence, difference and deferral if one is to lead a happy and meaningful life and if one endeavors to claim the freedom and the responsibility to construct one's own identity. The subject of this paper thus centers on the extent to which Hardy's protagonist Jude Fawley, a man who desperately clings to the illusion of a transcendental signified, is able to understand and put into practice Hardy's epigram, which does no less than set forth a 'medial', i.e. linguistic, program for the novel in general as well as for its protagonist in particular. In this sense, the focus of inquiry will be the up to now largely neglected discursive construction of an ill-fated male identity in a discursive universe where "nobody did come, because nobody does" (J, p. 31) and where taking words literally has lethal consequences. It is certainly surprising that a closer look at the hundreds of articles, essays and monographs about Jude the Obscure (1) reveals that most of these publications tend to ignore the eponymous hero of the novel and concentrate instead on Sue Bridehead, "perhaps the most remarkable feminine portrait in the English novel" (Southerington, 1971, p. 145). One eminent critic, Mary Jacobus, even speaks of "Sue the Obscure" (Jacobus, 1975, p. 305), and in a letter Thomas Hardy himself called his novel "the Sue story" (Boumelha, 1982, p. 138). Given this evident neglect of, or even discrimination against, the male protagonist in Hardy studies, it seems appropriate to shift the focus of critical attention. Not, however, back to the humanist phallic and integrated self (Moi, 1990, p. 8), but to a male identity which is insecure, fractured and fraught with problems.