Focusing on scenes of exclusion in The Return of the Native, The Woodlanders, and Jude the Obscure, this article argues that Hardy reveals realist representation to be structured by a dynamic of inclusion and exclusion. Rather than claim Hardy as a realist or antirealist, the article shows how he fits both categories, as the novels disclose the exclusionary potential of realist conventions that tend to function invisibly, providing comfort and coherence. The novels as a whole may be viewed as similarly (and simultaneously) inclusive and exclusive, since they delimit a world in which the real, defined by convention and consensus, is ultimately indistinguishable from fantasy.

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