Was Thomas Hardy a misogynist or a subscriber to the feminist cause? Ambivalence in Hardy explores Hardy's complex and deeply ambivalent attitude to women, both in his fiction and in his life. While his sympathy for wronged and exploited women is forcefully expressed, his writings also reveal his fears, uncertainties, reservations and tensions - the natural inheritance of patriarchal ideology and a predominantly male literary tradition.
The author analyses one 'minor' and one 'major' text from each of the three decades of Hardy's career (as a writer of prose fiction). The 1870s are represented by The Hand of Ethelberta and The Return of the Native, the 1880s by Two on a Tower and The Woodlanders, and the 1890s by Hardy's short stories and Jude the Obscure.
Generous references to Hardy's letters, autobiography, literary notebooks, marginalia and the letters of his two wives seek to blend a biographical approach with a feminist reading. Parallelisms between Hardy's fiction and that of contemporary feminist writers are explored to suggest mutual literary influence. His relations with women writers-particularly his protégées and 'scribbling' wives-are discussed in unprecedented detail. Ambivalence in Hardy contributes significantly to and challenges the field of Hardy studies.
About the Author
Shanta Dutta is a professor in the Department of English at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India. She is Vice-President of the Thomas Hardy Association and a member of the Thomas Hardy Society.
Table of Contents
1 Introduction: The Critics' Debate 1
2 The Hand of Ethelberta 22
3 The Return of the Native 36
4 Two on a Tower 55
5 The Woodlanders 70
6 The Short Stories of the 1890s 88
7 Jude the Obscure 106
8 Hardy, his Wives and his Literary Protégées 127
9 Hardy and Some Contemporary Female Writers 157
10 Conclusion: 'A Confused Heap of Impressions' 196
Select Bibliography 219