Knowledge and Survival in the Novels of Thomas Hardy
Lund Studies in English 101
Keywords: engelsk litteratur
Hardy's first novel appeared forty years after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England. His fiction describes rural society at one of the most exciting points in English history, when skills and knowledge on which country life had rested for so long were about to be superseded by scientific and technological developments in a way and on a scale that no one at the time could fully understand. What was to happen to the centuries of knowledge possessed by the country folk whose lives Hardy chronicled with such meticulous care in his novels and short stories?
Knowledge and Survival in the Novels of Thomas Hardy discusses an aspect of Hardy's writing hitherto largely neglected by scholars: the ways in which the novels and short stories valorise traditional wisdom and skills while recognising the importance of 'modern' scientific knowledge for industrial development and social progress. The twenty-first-century reader is apt to miss telling details about the fictional characters' lives, details whose significance Hardy's contemporaries would have appreciated.
This study shows why and how a proper understanding of the historical context enhances readers' appreciation and enjoyment of Hardy's novels.