Negotiating the gothic in the fiction of Thomas Hardy
The purpose of this research is to investigate Thomas Hardy’s relation to the Gothic tradition, especially that deriving from the classic period 1760-mid-1820s. The main novels chosen for such an investigation are Two on a Tower, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Parallels with the following texts form the heart of the thesis: Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, William Godwin, Caleb Williams, Matthew Lewis, The Monk, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer. This investigation has been instigated by three major elements noted in the criticism on Hardy’s literary art in general and on his tragedies in particular. First, although Hardy scholars employ terminology pertaining to the Gothic and romance genres in describing Hardy’s plots, characters and settings, very few of them make a direct and explicit connection to the Gothic novel. Second, the few who do broach the Gothic elements in Hardy’s fiction limit their understanding of the kind of Gothic Hardy employs mainly to the second quarter of the nineteenth century and onwards. Moreover, they seem to be more willing to admit such influence in his minor works, obfuscating the influence of Gothic discourse on his major novels. Therefore, this research will attempt to investigate Hardy’s involvement with Gothic discourse and examine the ways in which the characteristic settings, drama and character-types of such discourse are domesticated, complicated and made more subtle in Hardy’s work. Finally, it envisages further investigation into Hardy’s work in its relation to his architectural knowledge and his philosophic views of life in general, and his views of humanity’s place in it in particular.