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Inviting but frustrating over-simplification

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Date Issued:
2007
Summary:
Many critics and readers assume that Tess of the d'Urbervilles is simply the tragedy of a ruined country maiden and that the sexually-driven scenes are the most important aspects of the novel. In my thesis, however, I argue that Thomas Hardy created a novel centered on his complex heroine, Tess, not on simplistic notions of sexual ruination and sensational plot developments. In other words, Tess is an autonomous, detailed character who cannot be relegated to the usual stereotypes of Virgin, Whore, Mother, etc. Through my reading, we gain a greater understanding of the novel as a whole, instead of as a fractured, deterministic, and plot-driven tragedy. I begin my argument by examining Hardy's subtitle, "A Pure Woman," asserting that our focus should be on the word "Woman" and Tess's subjectivity, not reductive concepts of "purity" or chastity. In Chapter Two, I examine two significant scenes that occur in Alec's carriage, showing how many critics' readings underestimate Tess as helpless, and arguing that she fights against her oppressor in covert ways. My third chapter continues this defense of Tess by critiquing the critical debate surrounding the sexual encounter in "The Chase". I posit that the entire debate is flawed and that Tess should be defined based upon her actions and not simply her sexuality. Lastly, in my conclusion I present a broader defense of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, in which I assert that the ambiguous plot scenes in Tess are conscious attempts by Hardy to subvert traditional assumptions about what is important in a novel. My goal in this thesis is to critique popular but simplistic interpretations of Tess of the d'Urbervilles which diminish Tess's role; instead, I emphasize the way her character, in the words of critic Kathleen Blake, "invites but frustrates oversimplification."
Title: Inviting but frustrating over-simplification: (re)reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
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Name(s): Smith, Kathryn M.
Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Thesis
Issuance: multipart monograph
Date Issued: 2007
Publisher: Florida Atlantic University
Physical Form: electronic
electronic resource
Extent: v, 42 leaves.
Language(s): English
Summary: Many critics and readers assume that Tess of the d'Urbervilles is simply the tragedy of a ruined country maiden and that the sexually-driven scenes are the most important aspects of the novel. In my thesis, however, I argue that Thomas Hardy created a novel centered on his complex heroine, Tess, not on simplistic notions of sexual ruination and sensational plot developments. In other words, Tess is an autonomous, detailed character who cannot be relegated to the usual stereotypes of Virgin, Whore, Mother, etc. Through my reading, we gain a greater understanding of the novel as a whole, instead of as a fractured, deterministic, and plot-driven tragedy. I begin my argument by examining Hardy's subtitle, "A Pure Woman," asserting that our focus should be on the word "Woman" and Tess's subjectivity, not reductive concepts of "purity" or chastity. In Chapter Two, I examine two significant scenes that occur in Alec's carriage, showing how many critics' readings underestimate Tess as helpless, and arguing that she fights against her oppressor in covert ways. My third chapter continues this defense of Tess by critiquing the critical debate surrounding the sexual encounter in "The Chase". I posit that the entire debate is flawed and that Tess should be defined based upon her actions and not simply her sexuality. Lastly, in my conclusion I present a broader defense of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, in which I assert that the ambiguous plot scenes in Tess are conscious attempts by Hardy to subvert traditional assumptions about what is important in a novel. My goal in this thesis is to critique popular but simplistic interpretations of Tess of the d'Urbervilles which diminish Tess's role; instead, I emphasize the way her character, in the words of critic Kathleen Blake, "invites but frustrates oversimplification."
Identifier: 314387321 (oclc), 11601 (digitool), FADT11601 (IID), fau:1333 (fedora)
Note(s): by Kathryn M. Smith.
Thesis (B.A.)--Florida Atlantic University, Honors College, 2007.
Bibliography: leaves 41-42.
Electronic reproduction. Boca Raton, Fla., 2007. Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Subject(s): Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928
Social change in literature
Literature and society -- England -- 19th century
Held by: FBoU FAUER
Persistent Link to This Record: http://purl.flvc.org/FAU/11601
Use and Reproduction: Copyright © is held by the author, with permission granted to Florida Atlantic University to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Owner Institution: FAU

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