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The madder stain imprinted on Tess d Urberville s arm is part of a motif which runs through Hardy s fiction. Similar to Barthes s punctum shooting out of the studium, the stain is a place where the Real erupts, a blind spot that eludes interpretation. In the diegesis of the tragic novels, it is a surplus object whose intrusion disrupts reality and spells disaster. This book attempts to approach that unknowable kernel of jouissance by using Lacan s concepts of object-gaze and object-voice sometimes revisited by i ek. The stain has a vocal quality: it is silence audible. In a world where sound cannot reverberate for lack of a structural void, voice is by necessity muted, stuck in the throat. Hence the peculiar quality of Tess s voice, a silent feminine cry that has retained something of the lost vocal object. The sound of silence is what Hardy s poetic prose allows us to hear."