Hardy the Creator (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
The subtitle of Simon Gatrell’s study of Hardy as a creator is somewhat misleading, for a reader who comes to it expecting a biography of Hardy based on a study of his texts will be disappointed. Instead of a study of Hardy’s life, this is actually a study of the “life” of his texts, that is, how his works moved from original manuscript in Hardy’s own hand through their various appearances in print. Thus, the major emphasis of the subtitle of this study is on the word “textual” rather than on “biography.”
Gatrell’s assumption, and it is one that will receive no argument from traditional literary scholars, is that one cannot really know a writer’s work unless one knows how it reached the final state in which readers respond to it. Although usually only literary scholars are interested in such matters, it should be of concern to merely casual readers that they read a work in just the way that the author ultimately intended. Most works of literature go through various publishing configurations during their lives as texts—from manuscript to galley proofs, from galley proofs to page proofs, from page proofs to magazine publication, from magazine publication to single volume, and often from single volume to collected works. In each of these incarnations, the artist has an opportunity to make changes in the work, and most artists, as they develop their skills or change their ideas (or even as the cultural milieu itself changes), find that...
(The entire section is 2059 words.)
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