The Madder Stain

A Psychoanalytic Reading of Thomas Hardy


The “madder stain” imprinted on Tess d’Urberville’s arm is part of a motif which runs through Hardy’s fiction. Similar to Barthes’s punctum shooting out of the studium, the stain is a place where the Real erupts, a blind spot that eludes interpretation. In the diegesis of the tragic novels, it is a surplus object whose intrusion disrupts reality and spells disaster. This book attempts to approach that unknowable kernel of jouissance by using Lacan’s concepts of object-gaze and object-voice—sometimes revisited by Zizek.
The stain has a vocal quality: it is silence audible. In a world where sound cannot reverberate for lack of a structural void, voice is by necessity muted, stuck in the throat. Hence the peculiar quality of Tess’s voice, a silent feminine cry that has retained something of the lost vocal object. The sound of silence is what Hardy’s poetic prose allows us to hear.


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Biographical Note

Annie Ramel taught Victorian and contemporary literature at University Lumière-Lyon 2. She is president of FATHOM (French Association for Thomas Hardy Studies). The author of numerous articles on Thomas Hardy, she has also published a book on Great Expectations ( Great Expectations : Le Père ou le pire), as well as articles on Charles Dickens, Henry James, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde.

Table of contents

Introduction The Madder Stain
PART I The Letter Killeth
One The Littoral in A Pair of Blue Eyes
Two Gaps and Gashes
Three The Missing Blank
Four The Literal
Five Texts and Textiles

PART II The Feminine: Reading Hardy after Lacan XXth Seminar

Six “An Imaginative Woman”
Seven The Garden-Scene in Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Eight The Feminine Pursuit, the Artist’s Quest

PART III The Logic of Desire

Nine “Much Ado About Nothing”
Ten Das Ding
PART IV The Object-Gaze

Eleven Anamorphosis
Twelve Anamorphosis and The Return of the Native
Thirteen The Object-Gaze in The Return of the Native,
Fourteen “Aftercourses”: Revisiting Ancient Theory
Fifteen Far From the Madding Crowd and Anamorphosis
Sixteen The Red Glare and Hardy’s Aesthetics

PART V The Object-Voice

Seventeen Gaze and voice
Eighteen Tess’s Silent Cry
Nineteen The Vocal Object: Feminine or Masculine?
Twenty The Muted Voice and Hardy’s Poetics


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