tant in this regard, and "action" will need to be broadly interpreted. Given the parallels I have noted between the other representational arts and literature, my study (and literary criticism generally) can undoubtedly benefit from the theory and discoveries of these extra-literary areas. Film criticism, in particular, has made a concerted effort to locate a female subject of desire within the realist genre, with interesting results. As feminist readers of realist novels, we should share the film critics' suspicion of both representation and narrative. The latter is especially important in any critique of ideology, as narrative "becomes suspect in a feminist critique due to its construction of an exclusive world view, an illusory realm complete with closure and invisible seams. The feeling of wholeness and authenticity makes it all the more difficult to detect ideological exclusions or inclusions" ( Gentile81-82). The "feeling of wholeness and authenticity" which makes the reading of Victorian novels so pleasurable is to be queried at all times. We are to become resisting readers, as the overt message of a novel may be quite different from its unstated (and therefore more powerful) ideological assumptions. Even professed feminist novels may thus be deeply--perhaps unwittingly--conformist; Hardy Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a good example of this, as I shall show. And the formation and perpetuation of ideology that takes place in novels, the stories that culture tells itself about itself, are immensely important to human reality, as Flaubert's Emma Bovary bore striking witness in 1857. If erotic relationships are ever to change (and our world along with them), they will only do so within ideology, as new ways of being are envisioned.
The re-reading of the realist novel, the refusal to be beguiled by its symbiotic dream of erotic wholeness within a sexual hierarchy, is a small but important part of such a task. The goal of mutual subjectivity has not yet been attained even in the twentieth century; but any attempts by nineteenth-century novelists to create at least the possibility of a female subject of desire mark progress toward this goal. In my re-readings of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, therefore, I shall not hope to encounter a fully fledged female subjectivity. Rather, I shall attempt to trace the movements, however slight, toward a seeing, speaking, desiring female subject within the work of these novelists and within the century.