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Title: Thomas Hardy and the consequences of agnosticism
Author: Kramer, Kathryn Lynsey
ISNI:       0000 0000 5287 6814
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis reassesses the claim that Thomas Hardy was an agnostic, looking closely at the meanings of agnosticism (in terms of nineteenth-century usage of the word) and how Hardy's reinterpretation of agnosticism manifested itself in his work. By exploring his novels and poetry as they intersect with the intellectual development of agnosticism, it is shown that at the centre of Hardy's work, as at the centre of agnosticism, is an insistence upon final epistemological uncertainty and a rejection of dogmatism. For Hardy, this had application beyond theological questions to broader aspects of human existence. Chapter One examines Hardy's engagement with the agnosticism of Herbert Spencer, T. H. Huxley and Leslie Stephen. Chapter Two discusses Hardy's exploration of knowledge, through its obscuration by means of secrets, trickery and concealment, in his 'Novels of Ingenuity' (Desperate Remedies, The Hand of Ethelberta and A Laodicean). Chapter Three investigates Hardy's critical reinterpretation of two of Leslie Stephen's agnostic essays in A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Return of the Native. Chapter Four considers The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Woodlanders as Hardy's attempts to contextualise philosophical debates concerning the consequences of non-commitment. Chapters Five and Six discuss Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, respectively, as Hardy's most thorough explorations of the consequences of agnosticism for morality, through the portrayal of the agnostic heroes, Angel Clare and Jude Fawley. Chapter Seven considers Hardy's poetry as a medium through which he was able to express and explore his version of agnosticism. The claim of this thesis is that, Hardy, as an artist, was able to take agnosticism further than the Victorian agnostics. As such, his work can be read as a critical reinterpretation of the rationalist principles of agnostic thought within the domain of art.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available