Hardy and Women Who Did: the Coming of Modernity (EAS3100)

30 credits

Exploring the relationship of the late Victorians to modernity, the module aims to recreate a time of dynamic social transformation, new scientific understanding, and heightened self-consciousness. On both sides of the Atlantic new ideas and uncertainties were emerging. What constituted the nature of woman? What was the relationship of women to men, to education, labour and citizenship? What difference did class make? And what role might fiction have to play in disseminating new ideas?

Working with novels, short stories, poems, letters, illustrations and other material from the Victorian periodical press, including satirical cartoons, as well as drawing on material from Special Collections, we will consider issues of class, urbanisation and sexual identity, fears of racial degeneration and the intersection of debates on gender with imperial discourses. We will also consider ways in which new ideas about human-animal relations entered fiction, and look at Hardy's engagement with environmental issues. Through the exploration of new literary forms, and the rise of the short story, we will ask how important biography and autobiography are to our reading of literary texts, and explore late-Victorian views as to the social value and function of fiction. You will also have the opportunity to engage with digital humanities in relation to Hardy’s correspondents.

Authors covered include Hardy, George Gissing and George Moore and bestselling ‘New Woman’ writers such Sarah Grand, Mona Caird (Hardy's friend), Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin. We will also look at writing by Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill and Margaret Oliphant.

An optional one-day trip to Dorchester during the module will allow you to visit the National Trust Hardy properties and Dorset County Museum (in pop-up museums during 2019-20 HLF refurbishment!). You will pay the return rail fare and other related expenses will be subsidised by the department.