Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet St., Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX
Dr. Hugh Epstein - The Nature of Awareness in Hardy's Fiction
The London Lecture at Birkbeck 2020
Thursday 12th November 7.30pm - To Be Confirmed
This talk will explore the sorts of awareness that Hardy’s fiction promotes, both for his characters and for his readers. How is awareness reached? Awareness of what? Drawing on debates about perception and consciousness in Victorian science as explored in my recent book, Hardy, Conrad and the Senses, the talk will focus on key passages from Hardy’s novels, some to be found in the book and some considered for the first time. Thinking of characters as diverse as Cytherea Graye, Stephen Smith, Bathsheba Everdene, Anne Garland, Michael Henchard, Grace Melbury and Tess Durbeyfield, the question arises as to how the world impinges upon their senses, and whether this sensational experience constitutes some form of knowledge of the world, others and self. As readers, do we wait for the characters’ mental interpretation of events delivered as sights and sounds? Or is there another sort of awareness that these novels impart to us? The intention of the talk will be to reach a more definite statement of the particular character that marks out Hardy’s fiction than I achieved in my book – what it is that Hardy’s novels give us that no others quite do.
Dr Hugh Epstein has presented papers at many recent Hardy conferences, in Dorchester and elsewhere. He is also secretary of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.). His book, Hardy, Conrad and the Senses was published by Edinburgh University Press in November 2019.