Widely popular throughout the world, Hardy still seems to speak to us, in fiction and in poetry, as our contemporary. In this new edition of his popular study, Peter Widdowson identifies the elements in his work which enable Hardy to be read in this way: the focus on unstable class and sexual relations in a society undergoing rapid change; the highly-charged and contradictory representations of women at the heart of this dangerously ‘metamorphic’ social process; the self-reflexive artifice of the writing itself as an aspect of Hardy’s ‘satiric’ worldview; his ironic humanism in the ‘new Dark Age’ of the modern world. Drawing on contemporary approaches to literary study in an accessible way, the author shows where this radical and destabilizing Hardy is to be located in the texts; and similarly seeks to recast our conception of Hardy the Poet by showing how preconceived and selective it is. For this edition, Professor Widdowson has updated the Select Bibliography and has also included a ‘Postscript’ on film and TV adaptation of Hardy’s fiction, since many newcomers to Hardy may these days experience his work for the first time in this medium. This lucid and engaging study offers a comprehensive guide to reading Hardy anew as a writer who continues to challenge our assumptions about art and life.