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Ambivalence in Hardy

Ambivalence in Hardy

A Study of his Attitude to Women

By Shanta Dutta

This book explores Hardy’s ambivalent attitude to women both in his fiction and in his interactions with his wives, literary protégées and contemporary female authors. It combines a feminist approach with close textual analysis, supplemented by biographical insights gleaned from the published letters of Thomas Hardy and his two wives, his 'literary notebooks', his disguised autobiography, marginalia and other manuscript materials.

Paperback, 256 Pages


January 2007

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About This Book

Was Thomas Hardy a misogynist or a subscriber to the feminist cause? ‘Ambivalence in Hardy’ explores Hardy’s complex and deeply ambivalent attitude to women, both in his fiction and in his life. While his sympathy for wronged and exploited women is forcefully expressed, his writings also reveal his fears, uncertainties, reservations and tensions - the natural inheritance of patriarchal ideology and a predominantly male literary tradition.

The author analyses one 'minor' and one 'major' text from each of the three decades of Hardy’s career as a prose fiction writer. The 1870s are represented by ‘The Hand of Ethelberta’ and ‘The Return of the Native’, the 1880s by ‘Two on a Tower’ and ‘The Woodlanders’, and the 1890s by Hardy’s short stories and ‘Jude the Obscure’.

Generous references to Hardy’s letters, disguised autobiography, literary notebooks, marginalia and the letters of his two wives seek to blend a biographical approach with a feminist reading. Parallelisms between Hardy’s fiction and that of contemporary feminist writers are explored, suggesting mutual literary influence. His relations with women writers - particularly his protégées and 'scribbling' wives - are discussed in unprecedented detail. ‘Ambivalence in Hardy’ significantly contributes to and challenges the field of Hardy studies.


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Author Information

Shanta Dutta is a professor in the Department of English at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India. She is Vice-President of the Thomas Hardy Association and a member of the Thomas Hardy Society.


Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Table of Contents

Preface; Chapter 1: Introduction: The Critics' Debate; Chapter 2: ‘The Hand of Ethelberta’; Chapter 3: ‘The Return of the Native’; Chapter 4: ‘Two on a Tower’; Chapter 5: ‘The Woodlanders’; Chapter 6: The Short Stories of the 1890s; Chapter 7: ‘Jude the Obscure’; Chapter 8: Hardy, his Wives and his Literary Protégées; Chapter 9: Hardy and Some Contemporary Female Writers; Chapter 10: Conclusion: ‘A Confused Heap of Impressions’; Select Bibliography; Index

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