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“With ears alive to every sound”: Thomas Hardy’s Desperate Remedies and the (Im)materiality of Listening

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Publication date11/12/2019
Host publicationAnticipatory Materialisms in Literature and Philosophy, 1790-1930
EditorsJo Carruthers, Nour Dakkak, Rebecca Spence
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (electronic)9783030298173
ISBN (print)9783030298166
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This chapter considers listening as an organising principle in Desperate Remedies (1871), Thomas Hardy’s first published novel. It considers how Hardy’s attention to sound oscillates conceptually and aesthetically between opposing schools of thought that governed nineteenth-century thinking about aurality. I situate Hardy’s articulation of listening within the wider cultural debates that were taking place during the mid-nineteenth century, wherein a scientific-materialist conception of aural perception—spearheaded by Hermann von Helmholtz and championed by John Tyndall amongst others—was formed alongside a dominant culture of Romantic idealism. In turn, the chapter argues that pivotal sound “events” that take place throughout the novel pre-empt recent new materialist thinking about the affective qualities of sound and listening.