Thomas Hardy and the aesthetics of regionalism

Havird, David Long, Department of English, University of Virginia
Langbaum, Robert, Department of English, University of Virginia
Shannon, Edgar F., Jr., Department of English, University of Virginia

Thomas Hardy believed that the regional character of his work, far from limiting its universality, actually made it profoundly universal. This study of four novels (Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles) and selected poems strips away much of the local color and social realism and finds the symbol for Hardy's regionalism in the venerable country dance, the archetype of what he calls, in The Return of the Native, "the commonwealth of hearts and hands." The festive dance of couples around a bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day, under a greenwood tree on a couple's wedding day, upon a village green on May Day becomes, in Hardy's novels, a metaphor for fertile domesticity and communal work and, ultimately (in his poetry), for the transcendental order that a "maid and her wight" can create when they enact the quintessential regional drama of making a home out of wilderness. Their frequent failure at "homemaking" follows from an unresolved, typically modern conflict between their natural and enlightened selves. Through Hardy's prescient depiction of that wilderness as a Freudian dreamscape as well as a Darwinian landscape, the regional drama becomes universal.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Hardy, Thomas -- 1840-1928 -- Criticism and interpretation, Regionalism in literature
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