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Title: Nature and humanity : a comparative study between the regional novels of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) and Shen Congwen 沈从文 (1902-1988)
Author: Liu, Yuejie
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis adopts a Taoist approach to a comparison of the representation of Nature in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex novels and Shen Congwen’s West Hunan novels. In these definitively regional novels, Hardy and Shen demonstrate that they share a belief in the fluidity of the distinctions modern society has imposed between humanity and Nature. A Taoist metaphysical conception of Nature provides models for understanding the holism in their works. The comparisons in this thesis address the uniqueness of Hardy’s and Shen’s representations of Nature, explore how the links between such representations create interesting dialogic reverberations, and demonstrate how a Taoist frame can illuminate the connections between Nature and humanity in their imaginative literature in new ways. My three chapters select three pairs of novels from Hardy and Shen to which the relationship between Nature and humanity is central. In Chapter 1, a comparison between Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and Fengzi (1932-1937) explores the holism in the reciprocity between the human and non-human worlds in Wessex and the fetishist representation of local religion in West Hunan, and here I suggest that the Taoist conception of ziran can better capture the metaphysics of Nature in these novels. Chapter 2 explores The Woodlanders (1887) and The Border Town (1934), arguing that they show Taoist aesthetics of inaction (wuwei) in their narratives and their characters’ interactions with the environment, and this shows that a comparison between these two novels can delineate a dialectic between Nature and culture which expresses both writers’ literary tenet of ‘meaning beyond words’. In Chapter 3, a Taoist analysis of The Return of the Native (1878) and Long River (1938-1945) dissolves the dichotomy between Nature and culture existing in previous criticisms and offers a Taoist observation of the ‘return’ to holism through atavistic representations of Nature in the face of the dualism of modernity. Overall, the thesis aims to demonstrate the potential of applying a Taoist literary method to comparative literary studies. Through original translations into English of some of Shen’s little-known work, and the use of primary archive material held in both the UK and China, it offers bold new adjustments to previous scholarship on both Hardy and Shen.
Supervisor: Hammond, Mary ; Jones, Stephanie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available