Seeing Hardy: The critical and cinematic construction of Thomas Hardy and his novels
AuthorNiemeyer, Paul Joseph
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractCinematic adaptations of "classic" novels have long been viewed by filmmakers and critics as vehicles for understanding the art, mind, and even the personality of the original author. By examining the film and TV adaptations of Thomas Hardy's novels and by analyzing critics' opinions on the "fidelity" of these films to Hardy, we can see that this author is popularly perceived to be a pastoralist, classical tragedian, gloomy pessimist, and ardent social critic. Though there is considerable truth in these images, they do not convey all of who Hardy was and what his novels convey. Moreover, these perceptions of Hardy actually have their roots in the earliest reviews of his novels, and they have been largely reinforced by the decades of criticism that followed. But Hardy's novels actually resist simple classifications: they are multi-generic and are constantly involved in the process of deploying and questioning the language that is used by the characters and by the readers to construct a sense of reality. Since Hardy's novels are continually interrogating language and genres, they border on being self-destructive and incoherent. The function of some literary criticism of Hardy has often been to make his novels coherent and easy to understand, and to a large extent literary critics have created their own "versions" of the novels that have often become accepted by general culture. In chapters on the individual novels, this study isolates the critical histories of Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure; critically reads the novels to determine both how they give rise to and challenge popular and critical assumptions; and utilizes Barthean-derived theories on intertextuality and film adaptation to consider how filmmakers have intercepted not only Hardy's plots, but the critical interpretations of his novels, to replicate and codify on the screen familiar images of Hardy. The film and TV versions of Hardy's novels are both reflections of how these works traditionally have been read and perceived, and reflectors on how Hardy's novels continue to be read.
Degree ProgramGraduate College