The inscribed landscape serves as the central figure in the fiction and poetry of Thomas Hardy, from the images that stand out like "gilded letters upon the dark tablet of surrounding Egdon" in The Return of the Native to those "written on terrestrial things" in the poem "The Darkling Thrush." This paper concentrates on the use of writing imagery in the novels that make up the first half of Hardy's career as a writer. Although it can be traced to the tradition of writing metaphors described by E. R. Curtius, this body of imagery is give particular freshness and depth in Hardy's work, where it is organically related ot other visual patterns. It connects ideas of perception to patterns of individual and historical development, as experiences inscribe themselves on faces and lives. It also aids in and comments on the project of extracting meanings from sensation, which is itself central to Hardy. Further, Hardy's writing metaphors, by creating a "world as text," determine relations between his texts and the world they represent, placing his characters as secondary readers in the text and redefining text and world as objects of interpretation. Hardy's use of writing imagery, therefore, not only rehabilitates a commonplace figure but throws light on the function of metaphor in the discovery of meaning.

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