Further information: Dan Van Tassel: Thomas Hardy—Novelist and Poet
Hardy, who was largely self-educated and knew classical and biblical literature intimately, read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species at age nineteen as it rolled off the press in 1859. Though, like many of his contemporaries he gave up his childhood faith, he continued to regard the church as a moral force, desiring and hoping that someday the spirit would prevail over the letter-of-the-law and quarrelsome theology of his day. He likewise persisted in revering the church as a source and expression of enchanting music and architecture. As we shall come to see, Hardy’s affiliation with the Church of England had a profound effect upon his life, art, and thought.
Hardy’s life (1840-1928) and work—fiction (fifteen novels and a batch of short stories) and verse (nearly a thousand poems)—span the Victorian period and extend into the modern age.
The syllabus below pinpoints chapters of the novels and titles of selected poems assigned for discussions on given dates. A week or so prior to our first session, you’ll be emailed, as attachments, a course packet and a class roster to help you prepare for class discussions and to start getting acquainted with other members of the course. In way of priming the pump, the course packet includes notes, study guides, and discussions questions for each of the novels and poems. If you don’t want the expense or trouble (involving paper, ink cartridges, and printer), you can purchase a printed course packet in advance and have it mailed to you for $8.
Oxford Press paperback editions of the novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure (priced at $8.95 each minus a 10% discount), and the Dover Thrift edition of the poetry, Selected Poems: Thomas Hardy (at $2.50), have been ordered and are available for purchase at Content, the bookstore at 314 Division Street S. in Northfield.
Calendar of Assignments:
Jan. 4 Upon getting acquainted with each other, we’ll turn our attention to the purposes and outline of the course as delineated in the course packet and I’ll set the stage by providing background on the life and works of Thomas Hardy. In the time remaining, connecting with the pertinent study guides, we’ll discuss three of Hardy’s poems: “The Man He Killed,” “Hap,” and “Drummer Hodge.” The techniques and sentiments we observe in these poems will undergird our growing critical appreciation of Hardy’s literary achievement as both novelist and poet.
Jan. 11 Armed with a copy of Tess and our accompanying study guide, we’ll discuss Phases First through Second (chaps. 1-15).
Jan. 18 Today we’ll focus on Phases Third through Fourth (chaps. 16-34) in Tess. The relevant study questions in our course packet will help inform our discussion.
Jan. 25 We’ll wrap up our discussion today, centering on Phases Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh (chaps. 35-59) in Tess. Again, the study guide should serve to point up matters for inquiry and discussion.
Feb. 1 For today’s class we’ll focus on the following poems: “The Darkling Thrush,” “Channel Firing,” “I Look into My Glass,” “Afternoon Service at Mellstock,” “The Convergence of the Twain,” “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations,’” and “On the Belgian Expatriation.” Either in advance of or while reading each poem, ponder the questions and observations in the study guide to Hardy’s poetry and, if you like, jot down any additional questions or observations you wish to share in class.
Feb. 8 In preparation for today’s discussion, read Parts First and Second in Jude. In conjunction with the assigned reading for today, address items in the pertinent study guide.
Feb. 15 Today we take up Parts Third and Fourth in Jude. Again, you’ll find the discussion questions helpful for gearing up for class.
Feb. 22 We’ll wrap up the course by reading and discussing Parts Fifth and Sixth in Jude, study guide in hand.