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Title: 'Fearful joy' : Thomas Hardy and the carnivalesque
Author: Wilkinson, Jacqueline
ISNI:       0000 0004 2715 2565
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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The aim of this thesis is to explore Thomas Hardy's use of carnival and the carnivalesque in his novels both as a comedic and parodic tool with which he ambiguously both lightens and intensifies the tragedy and pessimism in his work and further as a penetrating literary device under the cloak of which he challenges and subverts the blinkered narrow-mindedness of his publishers and his middle-class readership. The intention is not to produce a solely Bakhtinian reading of these tropes in Hardy's work but to acknowledge the range of other voices, the social anthropologists and social historians among them, who offer a more penetrating interpretation of carnival and the carnivalesque and thus prove perhaps a more fruitful source in relation to Hardy's work. My object is to demonstrate the multifaceted nature of Hardy's utilization of these demi-genres, using them on the most superficial level as a means of authenticating his rural setting by the use of the customs and festivals which still punctuated the agricultural year as Hardy was writing. On a deeper level I shall examine how Hardy acknowledges and utilises the pagan/Christian palimpsest inherent in these rituals and overwrites them as a part of his own literary agenda thus creating a uniquely Hardian palimpsest. Finally, I will investigate Hardy's use of the carnivalesque trope as a means of producing an incisive and often parodic critique of the social and religious hegemonies of both the middle-classes and society at large. The carnivalesque is an 'extraterritorial' humorous world which also serves to question received tenets and prejudices; a destabilising world of the 'topsy-turvy', life viewed 'bottom-up', filled with a cacophony of voices, confusing disguises and masks, grotesque figures, transgressive gender blurring, and 'fearful joy'. In this thesis I shall consider how Hardy uses this inverted, transgressive phenomenon as a humorous yet destabilising literary device and further as a means of encouraging his readers to question received social norms and boundaries, both communal and personal, rural and urban. I will trace how Hardy's characterisation of carnival as a life-affirming and joyous ritual gradually took on an increasingly darker aspect filled with the cackling of subversive laughter reflecting not only the author's growing pessimism and disillusionment with the novel form but the nineteenth century movement towards the starkness of modernism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available