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Rhythm in Thomas Hardy’s Verse: “New Continuities of Meaning”

Le rythme dans la poésie de Thomas Hardy: “New Continuities of Meaning”
Laurence Estanove
p. 35-50


Si Thomas Hardy écrit ses premiers poèmes dès les années 1860, il ne publie son premier recueil qu’au tournant du vingtième siècle, et poursuit alors sa carrière de poète pendant près de trente ans. On peut envisager son œuvre poétique comme pré-moderniste, et ce non seulement d’un point de vue historique, mais également car elle marque le passage de la prosodie victorienne aux expérimentations des Modernistes. Ceci tient en partie à l’attention que porte toujours Hardy, dans son processus d’écriture poétique, au pouvoir rythmique des mots, ainsi qu’à la musicalité de structures morphologiques récurrentes, véritables échos. Ce souci du rythme touche également la ponctuation, la syntaxe et toute l’organisation graphique de ses poèmes, et plus particulièrement son emploi unique des points de suspension. Il est surprenant de constater qu’une telle spécificité soit jusqu’à présent passée inaperçue au sein de la critique hardyenne. Pourtant les pauses et blancs de l’écriture hardyenne prennent autant part au sens poétique que les mots eux-mêmes, car ils jouent un rôle primordial dans la création de cette continuité globale qui constitue selon Henri Meschonnic l’essence du rythme poétique. Paradoxalement, Hardy présente une méthode d’écriture poétique qui privilégie la dissonance, le divorce entre sujet et expression, mais, très précisément, dans le but d’élaborer de nouvelles continuités, “new continuities of meaning, mood, or imagery”, selon les mots du biographe Michael Millgate. Si Hardy connaissait et maîtrisait parfaitement la prosodie victorienne, il va créer son propre rythme poétique en combinant sémantique, oralité, et effets visuels — moins en se conformant à un canon métrique, qu’en travaillant la géométrie émotionnelle du poème.

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1When Thomas Hardy published his first collection of verse, Wessex Poems (1898), critics were more than doubtful about its qualities, and, maybe even more markedly, about the famous novelist’s legitimacy as a poet: “reviewers were at first inclined to treat these as the usual sort of indulgence by an established prose writer, not to be taken very seriously” (Cox xxxvii). Hardy’s career as a poet lasted until he died, in 1928, but his legacy and influence on British poetry could only and truly be sensed in the next generation—in the works and acknowledgements of such poets as Auden, Day-Lewis, Larkin, Dylan Thomas, Betjeman, Hughes, Heaney—among others.

2In his lifetime, Hardy’s status as a poet was not so easily established: in the last thirty years of his life, which covered his career as a poet, he was first and foremost greatly admired because he had been such a successful, talented novelist—Proust, Woolf, Forster, Ford Madox Ford or D. H. Lawrence all concurred in seeing in him “the greatest tragic writer among English novelists” (Woolf 254). Led by Siegfried Sassoon, a frequent visitor at Max Gate—Hardy’s house—some early twentieth-century poets also considered Hardy as a fatherly figure to whom they offered, in 1919, a collection of original verse by forty-three poets, entitled “Poets’ Tribute”. However, Hardy’s contemporaries were not so easily won over, and first among these, reviewers, as well as some eminent Modernist poets. R.G. Cox tells us that the reviewers’ “chief objections were that the poems were prosaic, awkward in style and form, and unrelieved in their pessimism” (xxxvii). T.S. Eliot also focused his invariably harsh comments on Hardy’s style: “He was indifferent even to the prescripts of good writing: he wrote sometimes overpoweringly well, but always very carelessly; at times his style touches sublimity without ever having passed through the stage of being good” (54–55). Although Eliot was here concerned with Hardy’s prose writing, it seems relevant that his objections to Hardy’s style were precisely those of the contemporary reviews of Wessex Poems and following collections. According to Mary Ann Gillies, Hardy did not diverge from the Modernists in his sensitivity and perception of experience, but it is his almost architectural concern for poetic style and form which accounts directly for the delayed legacy of his verse: “Hardy’s structural experimentations were a conscious response to the same forces which were pushing Eliot, Yeats, the Imagists and others into their own experiments. Hardy differs from them by moving not in the direction of greater freedom, but towards a greater elaboration and variation of existing metrical and stanzaic forms. In other words, he carries out the modern program of “making it new” by undertaking the difficult task of transforming and adapting the existing tradition. This results in poetry which is technically difficult; it provides an alternative to the free verse modernist poetry which dominates the period and thus provides models for the next generation of English poets” (Gillies 541).

3I do not wish to study here the specificities of Hardy’s prosody—this might be a good way for me to avoid grappling with his “technically difficult” poetry, but most of all this has been done almost exhaustively by Dennis Taylor. Conversely, I would like to focus on the non-prosodic, non-metric aspects of Hardy’s style, because I think that this is where the Hardyan idiosyncratic poetic rhythm resides—a powerful kind of poetic rhythm, neither Victorian nor Modernist, but definitely modern.

  • 1 One may indeed read in his third-person autobiography: “Hardy by this time [Summer of 1886] had qui (...)

4Although Thomas Hardy published his first collection of verse at the turn of the twentieth century, he actually started writing poetry as early as the 1860s. Poetry was his first love and original career plan, but he failed to attract the publishers’ attention in his early attempts at writing verse. Instead, he stuck to the “trade” of novel-writing.1 Yet since the novelist primarily saw himself as a poet, he found his models and inspiration almost exclusively in the lines of great works and figures such as the classics, religious texts, Shakespeare, the Romantics, and leading contemporary poets—Swinburne, Tennyson, Browning. A young architect by day, Hardy was, in his mid twenties, a devoted self-trainee in poetry-writing by night. With Palgrave’s Golden Treasury as his scholarly indispensable vade mecum, he would carry out methodical studies of those texts he admired most fervently, recording in his notebooks his observations on the recurrence and efficacy of certain forms, metres, words, syllables or sounds in the lines of his masters.

5When he started writing his own verse, his learned and acute awareness of prosody then allowed him to borrow the fixed forms of his predecessors. Hardy’s verse of the 1860s and early 1870s thus bears the obvious trace of the trends and revivals running in the poetic scene of the time—sonnets, ballads, rondeaux, hymn forms. Yet Hardy’s awareness and knowledge of prosody was also a theoretical one, as he was well aware of such debates as Patmore’s Essay on English Metrical Law had led to. He was then gradually able to take liberties from the models and the new prosody he had started with, and to develop his own forms and conception of verse-writing, especially after the turn of the twentieth century. And taking liberties from existing models became a method of writing in itself for Hardy, as one may read in one of his notes: “Lyrical Meth Find a situn from expce. Turn to Lycs for a form of expressn that has been used for a quite difft situn. Use it (same situn from experience may be sung in sevl forms)” (Millgate 86, Hardy’s emphasis). We can read here that Hardy moved rapidly from the apprentice poet’s imitative style to the search of a personal mode of expression, through the rewriting of existing forms. In fact, not only did Hardy rewrite and adapt poetic form, but he also worked at composing his own vocabulary. Millgate’s description of Hardy’s poetical study notebooks makes that explicit:

Especially remarkable are the long word-lists headed “Con” or “Concoc”, apparently for “Concoctions”. Here Hardy worked intensively through passages from a variety of sources—the Old Testament, the Book of Common Prayer, even a book on the history of architecture—in such a way as to pick up words and phrases from the original and reuse them in modified form and totally different contexts. In so doing he often moved from word-for-word reworkings and ventured—however gropingly—towards the discovery of new continuities of meaning, mood, or imagery. [. . .] Hardy’s objective, clearly, was to generate new expressive phrases from encounters with great models from the past and progressively develop and exercise a literary vocabulary of his own—a conception of working through imitation to originality [. . .]. (Millgate 86)

  • 2 See Taylor 1993, 312–313.

6I would go even further, saying that in developing his own vocabulary, Hardy also “ventured gropingly” below meaning itself. His study of forms was paralleled, as I said, by a closer study of words themselves, actually focusing both on their semantic and rhythmical dimensions. For example, he paid careful attention to the evocative power and musicality of recurrent morphological patterns: “At one point he notes that ‘The plu[ral] often makes a common word novel as grasses, dews’. At another he reminds himself to explore the possibilities inherent in the suffix ‘-less’, so distinctive a feature of his later verse” (Millgate 85). The most remarkable use of an affix in Hardy’s verse is undeniably that of the prefix un-. Generally speaking, that prefix is one of the most obvious marks of how powerfully concise and evocative the English language can be. In Hardy’s work, it appears in the most unlikely morphological combinations, attaching itself to all categories of words—delving into the lexicon of Old English to give some obsolete term a second life (“unhope”, “In Tenebris II”), extending the semantic scope of some others (“undo”, “The Going”), and creating, in a typically Hardyan way, a set of neologisms which gave Hardy his rightly deserved place in the Oxford English Dictionary. C.H. Salter’s selective list of Hardyan “unwords” gives a good idea of how diverse the poet’s use of the prefix was: ‘Hardy’s oddest un- coinages are the nouns unsuccess, unsight, unhope, unshame, uncare, and the verbs unknow, unblooms, unrecognized, unvision, unfulfil, unimpel, unsee. Most of these are required by the rhyme or meter, but some are not, nor are many of Hardy’s only slightly less odd unwords: unware, unwareness, unheed (n.), undeeming, unrueing, unweeting, unresolved (n.), unpassioned. Titles such as “The Unborn”, “Unrealized”, “Self-Unconscious”, and “The Self-Unseeing” confirm that the habit was deliberate’ (Salter 257). The recurrence of the un- prefix in Hardy’s verse bears witness to a true active working of language, to a deliberate experimentation. And indeed again, Taylor tells us that Hardy’s discovery of the poetic potential of that prefix came early in his self-training: in his notebooks he repeatedly underlined the un- words he encountered in the works of Shakespeare or Milton.2 In the famous first section of “In Tenebris”, according to J.O. Bailey, “Hardy’s “in unhope” is an absolute negative, stronger than “without hope”” (181). This vision seems a little too restrictive, as I would rather see the un- prefix, like other Hardy affixes, as a textual trace of the elaboration of meaning, the trace of a link between harmony and discord.

  • 3 mise en évidence d’une sémantisation généralisée du discours”. Translation mine.

7In Hardy’s verse, the use of affixes—un-, -less, mis-, dis-, etc.—is indeed rhythmical in that their recurrence is more than mere repetition, be it within a single poem or from one piece or collection to the next. Throughout Hardy’s poetical œuvre, that recurrence functions as an echo, in the sense that Henri Meschonnic gave to the word—an alliteration revealing “a generalized semanticization of speech” (Dessons and Meschonnic 101).3 One might think of the poem “Mismet”, in which the conjunction between lay out, meaning, and sound seems obvious:

He was leaning by a face,
He was looking into eyes,
And he knew a trysting-place,
And he heard seductive sighs;

But the face,
And the eyes,
And the place,
And the sighs,

Were not, alas the right ones—the ones meet for him—
Though fine and sweet the features, and the feelings all abrim.

She was looking at a form,
She was listening for a tread,
She could feel a waft of charm
When a certain name was said;

But the form,
And the tread,
And the charm,
And name said,

Were the wrong ones for her, and ever would be so,
While the heritor of the right it would have saved her soul to know!

8The graphic organisation and prosody of the poem seem to match ideally the ironical twist of the unhappy turn of events described here: on the one hand, the images of loving communion (“trysting-place”, “seductive sighs”, “a waft of charm”), and the verticality of monometers, evoke the perfect paradigmatic alignment of an actual encounter (-met); on the other, the tension between indefinite and definite articles (“a face”/“the face”; “a form”/“the form”), and the parallel between the two parts of the poem, match the horizontality that the line of each lover’s life should have followed (mis-). The ironical conjunction of these two aspects is therefore primarily carried by the title itself. Hardy thus clearly worked on the impact of the tone of the poem onto its very shape, its visual impression, but he also played on the various meanings of the word “meet”: as past participle in the title, it obviously points at the imperfection of the encounter, only to recall again the mismatching as an adjective in the first stanza (“the ones meet for him”). Here is, rather than a simple mimetic endeavour of the poet, a perfect illustration of the “continuity of meaning, mood, or imagery” referred to by Millgate. I would actually prefer to speak of a continuity of meaning, mood, and imagery: indeed, Hardy works on all levels of expression, lodging personal and universal meaning at the core of language.

9Ironically again, the continuity established here is one which reproduces the actual discontinuity of the experience—in this case, the specific mismatching of the lovers, and, more generally, the incongruity of existence. Annie Escuret considers that in his work Hardy is always defending the aesthetics of distance—“l’avocat d’une esthétique de l’écart (du défaut, de la fausse note ou de la dissonance)” (1030). And indeed, distance from models and tradition is precisely what Hardy was aiming at in his search for a method, a paradoxical artistic method that he explicitly claimed as his in a diary entry from the Spring of 1875:

The whole secret of a living style and the difference between it and a dead style, lies in not having too much style—being—in fact, a little careless, or rather seeming to be, here and there. It brings wonderful life into the writing [. . .]. Otherwise your style is like half-worn pence—all the fresh images rounded off by rubbing, and no crispness or movement at all.
It is, of course, simply a carrying into prose the knowledge I have acquired in poetry—that inexact rhymes and rhythms now and then are far more pleasing than correct ones. (Life 108, emphasis mine)

10Here Hardy seems to be directly responding to the many critics who reproached him with his heavy prose-writing and awkward poetic language, and even to be offering—with the term “careless”—a blunt, word-for-word fifty-year anticipation of T.S. Eliot’s criticism. Just as Hardy’s jointly Victorian and modern metrical rhythms appeared to Dennis Taylor as “consistent with a world of flux” (Taylor 1988, 121), the deliberate carelessness in Hardy’s style can be seen as an immediate illustration of the world’s imperfection, transferred from universal experience to personal feeling, from personal feeling to literary subject, from literary subject to poetic shape, and from poetic shape to individual words themselves in their very morphology. This is exactly how Dessons and Meschonnic considered poetic rhythm: “tout ce qu’il y a aussi dans le langage et qui est de l’ordre du continu, entre le corps et le langage, entre une langue et une littérature, entre une langue et une pensée: un ensemble de dispositifs signifiants qui sont des sémantiques du continu” (Dessons and Meschonnic 38). Hardy’s personal use of stanzaic forms, of affixes or alliterations creates rhythm in a regular sense—a musical sense. But it also, in a more modern sense, comes to match Meschonnic’s definition of poetic rhythm perfectly.

11In Hardy’s work, perhaps the most obvious and yet at the same time most personal feature of that poetic rhythm is the use of punctuation. In all his writings, prose and verse, Hardy always used a very visible, heavy punctuation. Dashes and ellipses appear as the most interesting elements, and those which create most powerfully the continuity of poetic rhythm. To start with dashes: in the poem “My Cicely”, a man accidentally learns that the woman he thought was dead, and whose grave he had just visited, is in fact still alive, now married, and working as a barmaid in a disreputable tavern. The moment of disenchanted realization comes as a shock, a rift which is directly imparted to the rhythm of the poem, or more precisely of one line in a formidable chiasmus:

[. . .]
—“Then where dwells the Canon’s kinswoman,
My friend of aforetime?”
I asked, to disguise my heart-heavings
And new ecstasy.
“She wedded.”—“Ah!”—“Wedded beneath her”—
She keeps the stage-hostel
Ten miles hence, beside the great highway
The famed Lions-Three. (emphasis mine)

12Because it is so brief and sharp and devoid of any intrinsic permanent meaning, the interjection expresses ideally the discontinuity of the disillusionment experienced here, of the break in rhythm of syncope as defined by Catherine Clément—“[t]emps faible entre deux temps forts” (16). In “Beeny Cliff”, one of Hardy’s many poems about his dead wife Emma, the final realization of the loved woman’s absence is materialized on the page of the poem, precisely thanks to the use of dashes:

What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
The woman now is—elsewhere—whom the ambling pony bore,
And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will see it nevermore. (emphasis mine)

13Like the euphemism in “elsewhere”, the rift of the dashes clearly underlines the absolute quality of the dead woman’s absence.

  • 4 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

14Such a rhythmical mark of the woman’s absence is central to many of Hardy’s poems, and more often materialized by the use of ellipses. But in Hardy’s verse these dots are precisely no mere ellipses, first and foremost because they are—or should be—visually different from the common three dots which constitute that type of punctuation. What I mean by “should be” is that in reality, none of the editions of Hardy’s poems, not even the most definitive of all, Gibson’s, truly does justice to the original punctuation used by Hardy in his poems. This has, to my knowledge, never been studied or noted, but in fact, in the manuscripts of at least three collections—Time’s Laughingstocks (1909), Satires of Circumstance (1914), Moments of Vision (1917)—rarely do the ellipses appear in their canonical triad. Most of the time, one finds four or five dots, sometimes even six or seven, always carefully spaced. In “The Rift”,4 for instance, the long silence materialized by five dots is even made longer by the beginning of the following line, where “Yes” obviously sounds as a sigh—another example of a poetic continuity which actually reproduces the discontinuity of experience, since the “rift” of the title is paradoxically made vocal in the long ellipsis on the page (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. — The Rift.

Figure 1. — The Rift.
  • 5 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

15We find the same sense of rhythmic continuity in last stanza of “The Chapel-Organist”5—the first-person narrative of a woman cast out of the parish church where she played because of her immoral life. The poem ends with the young organist’s suicide, and her agony is powerfully, even brutally evoked mostly through the visual shock of the alternation between long silences (dots) and spasms (dashes) on the page of the poem (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. — The Chapel-Organist.

Figure 2. — The Chapel-Organist.

16In Poems of 1912–13, the series Hardy wrote immediately after his wife Emma’s death and published in 1914, those carefully spaced dots clearly leave speech in a literal state of suspension, both temporal and physical, but they also drill holes in the body of the poems, obviously mirroring the emptiness of the woman’s absence. Thus, it now seems impossible to read a famous poem such as “The Going” without its original punctuation:

I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon. . . . . .you could not know

That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing—

Not even I—would undo me so!

  • 6 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

17The dots seem to materialize the speaker’s dizziness as he is about to fall, facing a gaping void. Similarly, in “Lament”,6 each set of four or five dots in the seventh line of each stanza signals the time the speaker needs to readjust to his actual solitude, but they also clearly function as a refrain, the leitmotiv of emptiness or absence which punctures the text in several places (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. — Lament.

Figure 3. — Lament.

18The effect is therefore equally and simultaneously semantic, visual, and auditory—again, another example of rhythmical continuity in Meschonnic’s sense.

19Hardy’s idiosyncratic use of ellipses—their recurrence, number and careful spacing—reveals the importance the poet gave quite simply to the blank parts of the page. Blank as an equivalent—or, to follow Meschonnic’s terminology, echo—of absence, naturally, but also blank as a rhythmical force, an absolutely primordial function according to Meschonnic:

Les blancs sont nécessaires au poème. Non comme marges seulement, mais l’entrée du blanc de la page à l’intérieur du corps du texte. Les entrées du blanc marquent une alternance de l’inconnu et du connu, du non-dit sur le dit, avancées, reculs, les rimes du langage avec lui-même, les intermittences du vivre-écrire. La typographie signale que le poème est un rythme organisateur, le primat du rythme-sens, non un ‘niveau’ ou une catégorie à côté de tranches soit lexicale, soit syntaxique, bref à côté du sens. Lignes et blancs matérialisent que le langage et le non-langage signifient l’un par l’autre. [. . .] un blanc est poétique s’il est inscrit dans le texte autant que le texte marqué par lui: s’il est lié à une syntaxe, et plutôt à une syntagmatique. Un blanc n’est pas de l’espace inséré dans le temps d’un texte. Il est un morceau de sa progression, la part visuelle du dire. (Meschonnic 304)

20Meschonnic’s vision relies heavily on the poetical and critical works of Mallarmé, and indeed, the French poet had already sensed the fundamental importance of the layout of a poem on the page: “L’armature intellectuelle du poème se dissimule et tient—a lieu—dans l’espace qui isole les strophes et parmi le blanc du papier: significatif silence qu’il n’est pas moins beau de composer, que les vers” (Mallarmé 410). “Est-il légitime d’identifier le blanc typographique au silence?” Meschonnic wonders. Hardy’s writing seems to confirm that equation, and to offer its practical application. Meschonnic goes on: “Un silence signifie. Par son contexte de situation, gestes, regards, ou non, entre des sujets. Il a une durée, qui signifie aussi. Il est entre des paroles, du côté de la parole, plus que son contraire, bien qu’on l’y oppose. Un silence n’est pas l’absence de langage” (304, Meschonnic’s emphasis). As we have seen, signifying duration is precisely what Hardy’s use of ellipses creates. His ellipses are truly a form of visual, organic, almost tangible silence, and can be considered as rhythmical in that they are a primary constituent of meaning.

21In reality, and unsurprisingly, silence also appeared to Hardy as a powerful element in architecture, as one may read in a notebook entry from 1873 where the young architect describes his visit to Tintern Abbey with his future wife Emma:

June 1st. A day’s trip with Miss G. to Chepstow, the Wye, the Wynd Cliff, which we climbed, and Tintern, where we repeated some of Wordsworth’s lines thereon.
At Tintern, silence is part of the pile. Destroy that, and you take a limb from an organism [. . .]. (Life 96)

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We can rightfully say the same of Hardy’s poetic silences.

Auden, W. H., “A Literary Transference”, Thomas Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Albert J. Guerard, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963, 135–141.

Bailey, J. O., The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Handbook and Commentary, Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1970.

Clément, Catherine, La Syncope: philosophie du ravissement, Paris: Grasset, 1990.

Cox, R. G. (ed.), Thomas Hardy: The Critical Heritage, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970.

Dessons, Gérard & Henri Meschonnic, Traité du rythme (des vers et des proses), Paris: Dunod, 1998.

Eliot, T. S., After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy, London: Faber & Faber, 1933.

Escuret, Annie, L’Œuvre romanesque de Thomas Hardy, 1840–1928: lectures, Thèse de Doctorat d’État: Études Anglaises, Université Montpellier III, 1983.

Gillies, Mary Ann, “Thomas Hardy: Modernist Poet”, Modern Language Quarterly 51.4 (December 1990): 535–554.

Hardy, Thomas, The Complete Poems, ed. James Gibson, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001.

Hardy, Thomas, The Life and Work of Thomas Hardy, ed. Michael Millgate, London: Macmillan, 1989.

Mallarmé, Stéphane, Igitur. Divagations. Un coup de dés, ed. Bertrand Marchal, Paris: Gallimard, 2003.

Meschonnic, Henri, Critique du rythme: anthropologie historique du langage, Lagrasse: Verdier, 1982.

Millgate, Michael, Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.

Salter, C. H., “Unusual Words Beginning with un, en, out, up and on in Thomas Hardy’s Verse”, Victorian Poetry, 11.3 (Autumn 1973): 257–261.

Taylor, Dennis, Hardy’s Literary Language and Victorian Philology, Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

Taylor, Dennis, Hardy’s Metres and Victorian Prosody, Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

Woolf, Virginia, “The Novels of Thomas Hardy”, The Second Common Reader, San Diego: Harcourt, 1986.

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1 One may indeed read in his third-person autobiography: “Hardy by this time [Summer of 1886] had quite resigned himself to novel writing as a trade, which he had never wanted to carry on as such. He now went about the business mechanically” (Life 189).

2 See Taylor 1993, 312–313.

3 mise en évidence d’une sémantisation généralisée du discours”. Translation mine.

4 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

5 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

6 Original manuscript, microfilm 96939/5, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. — The Rift.
Fichier image/jpeg, 252k
Titre Figure 2. — The Chapel-Organist.
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Titre Figure 3. — Lament.
Fichier image/jpeg, 421k
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Laurence Estanove

University of Toulouse—UTM, CAS.
Laurence Estanove was a teaching assistant (ATER) for four years at the University of Toulouse II—Le Mirail; she now teaches at Lycée Jean Monnet, Crépy-en-Valois. She wrote her MA thesis on solitude in Jude the Obscure and her master’s on unrequited love in a selection of Hardy’s novels and poems. In 2008, she completed and defended her PhD thesis on “The Dynamics of Disillusionment in Hardy’s Poetry”. She has worked and published on Hardy’s verse as well as his fiction and other writings. She is one of the founding members and webmaster of FATHOM, the French Association for Thomas Hardy Studies. Her current research focuses on poetry, more specifically on the use of punctuation in modern and contemporary verse.

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