The language of Hardy's novels is conspicuous. His use of the passive voice, his reflexive constructions, his counterfactuals, his unexpected expressions of uncertainty, the representation of an unknown person as a “figure” or “shape”—what distinguishes Hardy's language from that of other novelists also draws attention to itself. Indeed, the category of artificiality has long been deployed to subsume the distinctive features of Hardy's literary form. But such a characterization captures what is unique to Hardy without considering its place or purpose within his aesthetic project. This study argues for the importance of these techniques as strategies of representation, showing that his unique forms convey features of represented experience not explicitly, by means of language's referential capacity, but obliquely, through particular syntactic structures and their semantic resonances. Diverse aspects of his novels, including the spatial field, thematic significance, the affect of wonder, perceptual salience, and the intrinsic limitations of romantic love all emerge through Hardy's distinct modes of linguistic representation.

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