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Title: Hardy and women: A study in ambivalence.
Authors: Dutta, Shanta
Award date: 1996
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: This thesis attempts to take a fresh look at the long-running critical debate regarding Hardy's attitude to women as revealed in his prose fiction. Writing in a predominantly male literary tradition, and sharing a Christian ethic which held women responsible for the shattering of Edenic bliss, Hardy's fiction sometimes betrays certain misogynic traits as the author/narrator seems trapped in the gender-stereotyping so characteristic of his age. Reductive generalizations regarding woman's nature, often crudely bio-determined, pepper Hardy's novels even as late as Jude. Conversely, Hardy's sincere sympathy for woman as victim of patriarchal repression and exploitation emerges powerfully not only in Tess but also in those unjustly neglected short stories of the 1890s which reveal certain radically feminist tendencies, e.g. on eugenics. This study draws on unpublished letters and manuscripts in the Dorset County Museum and also on Hardy's marginalia, his published letters, literary 'Notebooks', and autobiography, as these offer interesting sidelights on authorial intentions and attitudes. The insights from these extra-textual sources are used to complement the textual analysis of one 'minor' and one 'major' prose work from the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. The study then examines Hardy's attitudes to his two wives vis-a-vis their literary ambitions: his strange unconcern regarding his first wife's creative efforts, in sharp contrast to his active promotion of the careers of his (would-be) second wife and a couple of other aristocratic literary 'pupils'. Following this is a detailed exploration of Hardy's relations with some of his contemporary female writers. The picture that finally emerges is of an artist who is often unable to transcend the blinkered male attitudes of his age, yet who courageously espouses certain revolutionary ideas on women's rights. This ambivalence is typical of a man who claimed to be content with tentativeness and disavowed any consistent 'philosophy' -- feminist or otherwise.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: Ph.D.
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, Dept. of English
Leicester Theses

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