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Thomas Hardy, Monism, and the Carnival Tradition

Thomas Hardy, Monism, and the Carnival Tradition: The One and the Many in The Dynasts

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Thomas Hardy, Monism, and the Carnival Tradition
    Book Description:

    Using insights derived from the critical theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, Wickens counters the usual view of The Dynasts as failed epic or tragedy, and instead situates the work as a novel within the serio-comical genres.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8263-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Relocating The Dynasts
    (pp. xi-2)

    Over the years, the reputation ofThe Dynastshas risen and fallen as steeply as the grain prices inThe Mayor of Casterbridge. What Hardy considered to be his best work did not excite most Edwardian reviewers, yet by 1912The Dynastshad emerged as a work of magnitude. When some younger writers sent Hardy a tribute in 1921, they thanked him ‘“most of all, perhaps, forThe Dynasts’” (Hardy,Life446). By 1938, ten years after his death, there seemed to be ‘almost universal agreement that theDynastsis the greatest of Hardy’s writings’ (Rutland 269). This consensus, lasting...

  5. One Hardy’s Longest Novel and the Monistic Theory of the Universe
    (pp. 3-27)

    Right from the start, readingThe Dynastsposed the problem of where to locate it in literary tradition. In 1906, after receiving Part Second from Hardy, Arthur Symons wrote back to say that ‘I watch it as an unparalleled spectacle, which I cannot wholly accept as coming within any known limits of art’ (175). The usual way of overcoming this strangeness, to readThe Dynastsas an epic or tragedy, has not successfully explained its heterogeneous features, though these include aspects of all the elevated genres. The one possibility not explored will be the subject of this book:The Dynasts...

  6. Two The Will’s Official Spirit
    (pp. 28-57)

    InThe Cosmic Web, N. Katherine Hayles does not includeThe Dynastsin her study of literary responses to scientific field theories. No explanation is given but two reasons seem clear enough and take us to the heart of our inquiry about Hardy’s work. On the literary side, Hayles explores the way the field concept affects the shape of modern fiction and thus can ignoreThe Dynastson the grounds that it is not a novel. On the scientific side, she assumes that the cosmic web was a twentieth-century creation, a revolution in world view that presumably left Hardy untouched....

  7. Three Unconscious or Superconscious?
    (pp. 58-87)

    Historical interpretation inThe Dynastsranges from the simplest form, the chronicle, to the most complex and abstract form, the monistic theory of the universe. At both extremes we find the indeterminacy so important to the Bakhtinian novel. On the one hand, ‘The Chronicle typically promises closure but does not provide it’ (Hayden White,Content6); on the other hand, the theme of the Will acquires some of the contradictory complexity of its life as an idea in the dialogue of the era. Instead of offering a single impersonal truth, with the Spirit of the Years settling all disputes (see...

  8. Four Poetry and Prose
    (pp. 88-120)

    We have seen that very little of the dialogue about the Will can fairly be called ‘Hardy’s home-made theology’ (Brooks 295) or ‘an odd piece of home-made metaphysic’ (Stewart 35). Instead of being a ‘private language’ (Hynes,Pattern164), much of the ‘esoteric vocabulary’ (Carpenter 192) of the Spirits, ‘a language full of strange words and abstractions’ (Halliday 162), belongs to the thinking world. We might say that the Overworld constitutes a new home for monistic thought, but the house itself remains populated, almost over-populated, by the voices of others. Why then have critics persisted in treating its dialogue as...

  9. Five A Carnivalesque Picture of Carnival
    (pp. 121-144)

    To explain the way Dostoevsky leaps over space to concentrate action on the threshold or the public square, Bakhtin looks back on a fundamental difference between carnival life and carnivalized literature. If ‘in essence [carnival] was limited in time only and not in space,’ in practice ‘its central arena could only be the square’ (Problems128). When carnival left this ‘highly specific, extremely important area’ (Dialogic159) during the seventeenth century, it lost the ‘authentic sense of a communal perormance’ (Problems131) and ceased to exert a powerful and direct influence on literary genre. This decline did not mean, as...

  10. Six Heroism, Speech Zones, and Genres
    (pp. 145-168)

    Perhaps no aspect ofThe Dynastsbetter illustrates the problem of defining its generic tradition than Hardy’s treament of heroism.The Dynastsmay be a novel without a hero, but Hardy ‘cannot resist giving a certain heroic dimension to such puppets as Nelson, Pitt, and George III’ (White 102). More often heroism is not a matter of inconsistency. Hardy has ‘his conception of heroic character’ andThe Dynasts‘celebrates … a kind of heroism acceptable to the self-conscious modern world’ (Brooks 286, 288). The hero’s position does not change with respect to the author even if ‘the Immanent Will is...

  11. Seven The Crowds of War
    (pp. 169-193)

    The power of words, official and unofficial, to sway the masses leads directly to our next subject – the crowds of war. One moment a voice dictating orders to thousands of troops, the next a figure riding in the ranks, Napoleon would be nothing without the crowd. Before we even hear him speak inThe Dynasts, we see the harbour of Boulogne crowded with his vessels and soldiers, the French invasion force in turn drawing a squadron of English ships. The theme of war fills the benches and packs the gallery of the English Parliament, while dividing its members into...

  12. Eight Chronotopes and the Death-Birth of a World
    (pp. 194-215)

    That ‘time and space are one’ (Freeman 167) in Hardy’s fictional world has become an axiom of recent criticism, yet the job of ‘Discovering the Chronotope,’¹ to cite the title of one article, still remains to be done. Surprisingly, critics have not drawn on Bakhtin’s account of time-space in the novel and have ignored the one work of Hardy’s that, like Goethe’s Rome, is a “great chronotope of human history” (Bakhtin,Speech Genres40) –The Dynasts.

    In the context of neo-Kantian thought, both Hardy and Bakhtin see time and space as the basic categories for organizing and representing the...

  13. Conclusion: Hardy and Bakhtin
    (pp. 216-222)

    If thinking in Bakhtin’s categories helps to illuminateThe Dynasts, then extending his ideas into an area he did not explore – the disturbing context of war – does more than just add another challenge to his celebration of the forces of carnival. By way of a conclusion, I want to consider how the pairing of Bakhtin and Hardy can be mutually illuminating. ReadingThe Dynastsallows us to rethink some of the problems of Bakhtinian carnival, especially its relation to history and violence, while the carnival tradition has some important implications for the study of Hardy beyondThe Dynasts....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 223-234)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 235-246)
  16. Index
    (pp. 247-255)