FATHOM (French Association for Thomas Hardy Studies) Seeks Submissions

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CFP: “Green Hardy”

FATHOM’s peer-reviewed e-journal is seeking essay submissions on “Green Hardy” for its next issue.

“Wessex”, as Thomas Hardy explained, is “a partly real, partly dream-country”, a rural world in which nature plays a prominent part. In D. H. Lawrence’s words, “this is a constant revelation in Hardy’s novels: that there exists a great background, vital and vivid, which matters more than the people who move upon it” (Lawrence 70). Some of Hardy’s novels and poems have been said to belong to the pastoral tradition, but would they fall into the category of green poetry (as opposed to “nature poetry”), or green fiction, in the sense used by Terry Gifford? Was Hardy post-Romantic, or could he be viewed, like Wordsworth, as a promoter of “Romantic Ecology” (Bate 2013)? This issue invites contributors to re-assess Hardy’s writings in the light of eco-criticism and to ask the question: how green was Thomas Hardy? 

What this immediately poses is the question of “nature”/“Nature” (Williams 184), a cultural construct in both spellings. If we accept that “the ‘natural’ is the cultural meaning read into nature” (Williams, “Garden” 2), it seems difficult to conceive of nature as unmediated by language. Could we go as far as to say, in that perspective, that “there is no nature” (Liu 38)? Even more problematic would be the task of the poet trying “to engage poetry with more than human life”, which would mean “stepping over language”, resisting the logic of substitution – of the word for the thing itself – so as to give access to the real of natural life (Skinner 105). How can poetry or poetic fiction “step over” language? How far does Hardy’s work illustrate Leonard Skigaj’s theory of “poetic reference”, which aims at taking the reader “beyond the printed page to nature, to the referential origin of all language” (Skigaj 38)? 

Reading Hardy’s texts in such a perspective would require questioning language as a process of signifying substitution. Is it possible to go beyond the limits of language, beyond the conception of language as primarily metaphorical? As human beings, we are “mortified” by language, which substitutes words for the real thing. Could it be that language mortifies nature too? When the poet says “a flower”, his utterance turns the flower into an absence, for the flower is, in Mallarmé’s words, “the one absent from every bouquet”[1]. Language deprives the world, both human and non-human, of absolute enjoyment. But Mallarmé’s sentence says something more: “I say: a flower! And […] there arises musically, as the very idea and delicate, the one absent from every bouquet”. Indeed, as the poet says the words, something real, some new-born flower, arises musically from the humus of language. Is it not possible for language, especially poetic, to convey scraps of an inaccessible enjoyment? Going beyond the symbolic, which views language as a signifying tool, is what Lacan did when he invented the concept of “lalangue” (translated as “llanguage”, Lacan 1998, 138), which serves purposes different from those of communication. Any form of literary writing tries to go beyond the “symbolic appropriation” (Rigby 2016, 29) of nature as it attempts to approach the unsymbolizable real.

In George Eliot’s words, “a patent de-odorized and non-resonant language, which effects the purpose of communication as perfectly and rapidly as algebraic signs” may be a perfect medium of expression to science, but it “will never express life, which is a great deal more than science” (Eliot 287–288). Then, could it be argued that Hardy’s resonant poetic language expresses “life” in all its forms, whether human or non-human, and that it effects a return to the literal? Is this not a form of resistance to the logic of substitution? As he focuses on “the vibratory intensity” of life (Estanove 2), on “packets of sensations in the raw” (Deleuze 39), Hardy decenters human experience, takes it away from the “symbolic appropriation” of nature. Thus his writing approaches the real of natural life: the human, animal, plant, and even mineral worlds – like for instance the famous embedded fossil in A Pair of Blue Eyes, which was once a living creature, but is now staring at Knight with its eyes “turned to stone” (Hardy 1872, 209).

In Hardy’s poetic texts (whether in poetry or prose), is it the human speaker’s voice that we hear, or is the poetic voice open to the “non-human”, merging with “the unconscious poesy of the earth” (Rigby 2004, 102–103)? When the voice makes us hear nature’s own rhythms and cycles, does it become one with nature? Does it become what Jonathan Bate calls “The Song of the Earth”? What if language were not the exclusive privilege of men? In The Woodlanders, Hardy reverses the positions of men and nature in their linguistic confrontation: nature writes and speaks its own language, human beings are the “spectators” attempting “to read its hieroglyphs as ordinary writing”, lending an ear to “the tongue of the trees and fruits and flowers themselves”, in the hope of understanding it. The “point of view” then, is not that of men inscribing their linguistic codes upon nature: it is that of “the seasons” which, like a “conjuror”, perform magic tricks on men, “artifices” meant to confuse them. But some exceptional human beings, such as Giles Winterborne and Marty South, are capable of an “intelligent intercourse with Nature” (Hardy 1887, 249), they understand its language, and they form an “organic community” (Devall 67) with Nature.

Deleuze and Guattari, in A Thousand Plateaus, follow a logic not alien to the Lacanian concept of lalangue when they write that literature means “over-spilling the limits of the signifying system” (Deleuze & Guattari 115), breaking“through the wall of the signifier”. And they add: “it is through writing that you become animal” (187). Indeed, it is “through the voice” that one becomes animal (4). Then is Hardy’s writing a way of “becoming-animal”? This raises the crucial question of animals in Hardy’s work, a subject which has already been explored (West 2017, West 2018), and which requires a distinction between two conceptions of the relation between humans and non-human animals: the idea, favoured by Deleuze and Guattari (and derived from Darwin’s Origin of Species), of an ontological continuity between men and animals; and the fundamentally different concept of human autonomy, which implies the acceptance of the gap between humans and animals. That conception, embraced by Derrida, recognizes the radical otherness of animals, makes an encounter possible between men and animals, and is a pre-requisite for an ethic of care to oppose the exploitation of animals (Cohn). Whether Hardy’s approach was more Deleuzian or Derridean is open to questioning.

We welcome essays on any of Thomas Hardy’s writings (novels, short-stories, poems, etc.).

Proposals of 300 words with a short bio are due by May 15, 2021. Final papers (about 6000 words) are due by October 31, 2021.  

Please ensure you adhere to the FATHOM stylesheet.

Submissions should be sent to:




Selected references
Bate, Jonathan, Romantic Ecology, London: Routledge, 1991.
Bate, Jonathan, The Song of the Earth, London: Picador, 2000.
Buell, Lawrence, The Environmental Imagination, Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard UP, 1995. 
Buell, Lawrence, Writing for an Endangered World, Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard UP, 2001.
Cohn, Elisha, “‘No insignificant creature’: Thomas Hardy’s Ethical Turn”, Nineteenth Century Literature 64.4 (2010): 494–520.
Coupe, Laurence (ed.), The Green Studies Reader, London: Routledge, 2000.
Deleuze, Gilles and Parnet, Claire, Dialogues II (1987), trans. H. Tomlinson & B. Habberjam, Columbia UP, 2007.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. B. Massumi, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
Devall, Bill and Sessions, George, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, Layton (Utah): Gibbs Smith, 1985.
Dryzek, John. S., The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses, 3rd edition, Oxford: OUP, 2013.
Estanove, Laurence, “Hardy’s Humanity: ‘A Strange Respect for the Individual, an Extraordinary Respect’”, FATHOM 4 (2016), https://journals.openedition.org/fathom/690 (accessed 9 Feb 2021).
Garrard, Greg, Ecocriticism, London: Routledge, 2004.
Gifford, Terry, “The Social Construction of Nature”, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 3.2 (1996): 27–35.
Glotfelty, Cheryll and Fromm, Harold (eds), The Ecocriticism Reader, Athens, Ga.: U of Georgia P, 1996.
Hardy, Thomas, A Pair of Blue Eyes (1872), Oxford & New York: The World’s Classics, 1985.
Hardy, Thomas, The Woodlanders (1887), Oxford & New York: The World’s Classics, 1985.
Hochman, Jhan, Green Cultural Studies, Moscow, Ida.: U of Idaho, 1998.
Hoffmeyer, Jesper, Biosemiotics: An Investigation into the Signs of Life and the Life of Signs, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008.
Huggan, Graham and Tiffin, Helen, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment, London and New York: Routledge, 2010.
Kerridge, Richard and Sammells, Neil (eds), Writing the Environment, London: Zed Books, 1998.
Kerridge, Richard, “Ecological Hardy”, in Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism, eds Karla Armbruster and Kathleen Wallace, Charlottesville, Va. and London: UP of Virginia, 2001, 126–142.
Kerridge, Richard, “Environmentalism and Ecocriticism”, Literary Theory and Criticism: An Oxford Guide, ed. Patricia Waugh, Oxford: OUP, 2006, 530–543. 
Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX: “On Feminine Sexuality: the Limits of Love and Knowledge”, trans. B. Fink, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1998.
Lawrence, D. H., “The Real Tragedy” (1914), in Thomas Hardy: The Tragic Novels, ed. R. P. Draper, London: Macmillan, 1985, 64–72. 
Liu, Alan, Wordsworth, The Sense of History, Stanford: Stanford UP, 1989. 
Morton, Timothy, Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2006
Eliot, George, Essays of George Eliot, ed. T. Pinney, London: Routledge, 1963.
Rigby, Catherine, Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism, Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2004.
Rigby, Catherine, “Ecopoetics”, in Keywords for Environmental Studies, eds Joni Adamson, William A. Gleason and David N. Pellow, New York: NTU Press, 2016.
Skigaj, Leonard, Sustainable Poetry: Four American Ecopoets, Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1999.
Skinner, Jonathan,“Why Ecopoetics?”, Ecopoetics 1 (2001), 105–106.
West, Anna, Thomas Hardy and Animals, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2017.
West, Anna, “Looking at Adders in The Return of the Native”, FATHOM 5 (2018), https://journals.openedition.org/fathom/752 (accessed 9 Feb 2021).
Williams, Raymond, Keywords, Glasgow: Fontana, 1976.

[1] Mallarmé, Stéphane, Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. Mary Ann Caws, New York: New Directions, 1982, 76. 
Translated from “Avant-Dire” au Traité du Verbe (René Ghil), Paris: Giraud, 1886, 5–7. “Je dis: une fleur ! et, hors de l’oubli où ma voix relègue aucun contour, en tant que quelque chose d’autre que les calices sus, musicalement se lève, idée même et suave, l’absente de tous bouquets”.

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