Knowledge and survival in the novels of Thomas Hardy

Abstract: This thesis identifies two different kinds of knowledge in Thomas Hardy's novels: the everyday, passed on from generation to generation, which is non-academic and closely bound to the local environment and its traditions; and the specialised, recorded in the printed word, which is the product of formal education and independent of the local community and its traditions. These two kinds of epistemological competence determine one's ability to adapt and survive in a changing society. It is argued that everyday knowledge does not promote analytical thinking and the ability to predict; specialised knowledge, on the other hand, is closely related to scientific analytical thinking and is thus more in tune with the scientific world view which developed in the second half of the nineteenth century. The two forms of knowledge are discussed in relation to three groups of characters: the rustics, the lower/middle class and the upper-middle/upper class. Selected concepts taken from the work of Pierre Bourdieu have been used to identify the source, nature and scope of the various characters' knowledge within the three groups. With the aid of Basil Bernstein's concepts of the ‘restricted' and ‘elaborated' codes, dialogues are seen to constitute a useful indication of the type of knowledge which an individual character possesses. Throughout the study reference is made to historical factors, local as well as national, in the belief that what the reader brings to the text constitutes a third, and vital, form of knowledge. While today's reader has the benefit of hindsight, s/he lacks intimate knowledge of nineteenth-century social/working conditions. All fourteen published novels have been analysed to show that, while Hardy's sympathies lay with the rustics, he was keenly aware that the lower/middle class had the greatest potential for survival in the transformation from an agrarian to an industrial society. It is the purpose of this study to demonstrate that historical research and sociological/sociolinguistic theory provide valuable insights into Hardy's prose by illuminating salient features of his texts and in outlining a pattern of thought in his writing. The introduction presents the assumptions on which the study is based and defines the tools which have been used. Chapter One discusses national developments in education, concentrating on those which are most pertinent to Hardy's novels. The chapter which follows looks at educational developments in Dorset and concludes with a review of Hardy's own education. Chapter Three considers Hardy's early novels, from Desperate Remedies to A Laodicean. The latter represents a turning-point in Hardy's literary career, as it is the first work in which he openly focuses on the juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern. Chapter Four discusses Hardy's later novels, from Two on a Tower to Jude the Obscure. The later novels are more obviously concerned with science and its significance for future developments. The study closes with a short summary and some suggestions for future research.

  This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.