CFP – Desire and the Expressive Eye (FATHOM journal #5)


FATHOM journal issue #5

Desire and « the Expressive Eye » in Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy has inspired critics with an interest in the visual arts: many of his texts can be read as « iconotexts », i.e. as texts with a powerful « painting effect », even in the absence of any direct reference to painting (L. Louvel). His style, with its characteristic « verbal-visual effects » (J. B. Bullen), owes much to Ruskin and Turner. Desire is another theme which has found its way into major criticism of Hardy’s work-the first item in the series being J. Hillis Miller’s Distance and Desire.
This publication will explore the relation between desire and the gaze in Hardy’s work. In Under the Greenwood Tree for instance, desire is kindled by the sight of a woman, « Miss Fancy Day », framed within the quadrangolo of her window: the « window of fantasy » (Lacan) opens onto a world of dreamings and yearnings. But the gaze in Hardy’s fiction can also have a lethal power. The « evil eye » looking at Mrs Yeobright through a window-pane in The Return of the Native causes her to meet her doom on the heath: she has been « overlooked » by her daughter-in-law, just as Gertrude is « overlooked » by Rhoda Brown in « The Withered Arm ». Is the eye, then, an « expressive eye » (J. B. Bullen), which makes manifest the « positive, dynamic and productive dimension of desire » (J. Thomas)? Or is it felt as a menace, like the « oval pond » in Far from the Madding Crowd, which glitters « like a dead man’s eye »? Is it full of voracity, intent on devouring whoever comes under its spell?

We will welcome proposals opening new directions in Hardy criticism, linking the desiring subject and the power of the gaze. Studies can focus on the stories told by Hardy, but also on the writing process: on the power of the written word, which is « to make you hear, to make you feel – before all, to make you see! » (Joseph Conrad, Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus). And how does Hardy the writer manage to turn to good account the power of the gaze in his texts? We welcome essays on any of Hardy’s writings (novels, short-stories, poems, etc.).

BULLEN, J. B.. The Expressive Eye, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
LACAN, Jacques. The Seminar, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, translated by Alan Sheridan, Penguin Books, 1979.
LOUVEL, Liliane. Poetics of the Iconotext, edited by Karen Jacobs, translated by Laurence Petit, Farnham: Ashgate 2011.
MILLER, Joseph Hillis. Thomas Hardy: Distance and Desire, London: Oxford University Press, 1970.
THOMAS, Jane. Thomas Hardy and Desire: Conceptions of the Self, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Proposals of 300 words with a short bio are due by April 15, 2017.
Final papers are due by June 30, 2017.

FATHOM stylesheet available at

Please send the submissions to:
Isabelle Moragon Gadoin
Annie Ramel