Theological Themes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy and Religion by Richard Franklin

Theological Themes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure

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The wellspring of Thomas Hardy and Religion is the recognition that Thomas Hardy's two late great novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, are dominated, respectively, by two religious traditions of nineteenth-century Anglicanism: Evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism. Placing those movements in their historical context alongside other Victorian religious traditions, the author explores the development of Hardy's religious beliefs and ideas up till the 1880s. Evangelicalism in Tess is discussed through an analysis of the principal characters, Angel Clare and his father, Parson Clare, Alec d'Urberville and Tess herself, leading to a consideration of why this form of Christianity looms so large in that novel. Not unexpectedly, the reasons for this are linked to Hardy's personal and intellectual biography, especially his religious upbrining and experience of and involvement in these religious traditions. This applies to both novels. The 'sources' of Jude the Obscure in Hardy's lilfe and throught, and their links to Anglo-Catholicism, are revealed in the contact of the influence of that tradition on the narrative and characters, in particular Jude's sense of vocation, the importance of the university town of Christminster and issues associated with marriage, divorce and sexuality. Throughout his analysis of both novels the author demonstrates how Hardy lambasts the way in which these religious traditions and the conventional Victorian morality they bolstered undermine human flourishing.

Thomas Hardy and Religion concludes by considering the place these two novels have in the continuing trajectory of Hardy's theological ideas, underlining the critical importance of understanding his religious concerns and reflecting on the way in which his critique of religiion is important to people of faith.

About the Author

Richard Franklin spent 29 years as a Church of England parish priest. He has also worked as a university chaplain and a director of studies in a theological college. A canon of Salisbury, he is a former member of the General Synod. Richard is the author of Towards the Abolition of the Nations State? European and National Ideneity in Christian Perspective (2004) and was the founding editor of the journal Studies in Chritistan Ethics. His essays and articles have been published in Modern Churchman, Theology, and The Hardy Society Journal.

Hard Cover: £55  Paperback: £25

Release Date: July 2021.

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