A THS Conference/Festival Lecture by Professor Paul Niemeyer

'Hardy the Novel Character: Recreations of the Author in Three Modern Works of Fiction'

A THS Conference/Festival Lecture by Professor Paul Niemeyer

Wednesday 27th July at 9.15am - The United Church, Dorchester

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To the despair of many literary critics, the lives of authors have generated as much—or more—attention than the works they wrote. Novels, films, and plays have been built around the lives of the Brontës, Shakespeare, and—most commonly among Victorian authors—Dickens. Even Thomas Hardy has not escaped being made into the subject of literary works (and Hardy lookalikes have even “cameoed” in film or TV adaptations of his works), and his role in other authors’ fictions reveal how Hardy has been read and understood as a literary figure by different generations in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

Probably the most famous novel “about” Hardy is Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, which was published two years after Hardy’s death (1930), when Hardy’s status in the British canon was still being determined. This uncertainty is embodied in a fictionalized Hardy figure whose appearance undergoes continual changes, and in his uncertain impact on the narrator, who does not quite understand his own status in a world becoming less Victorian. More recently, the now-securely canonized Hardy is largely the subject of Howard Jacobson’s satirical Peeping Tom (1998), narrated by a man who despises Hardy’s works largely because they are canon—and who learns to his horror that he is apparently the reincarnation of Hardy himself. The narrator’s unconventional outer nature and his apparently Hardyan inner nature possibly reflect the “new” nature of British fiction—if not Britain itself. Finally, New Zealand novelist Damien Wilkins centers his historical novel Max Gate (2013) around the servants in the title house as Hardy lays dying—in effect mirroring the questions of what are our own duties to the memory of Thomas Hardy and to his literary legacy.

PAUL J. NIEMEYER is an associate professor of English at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, a growing school on the U.S.-Mexico border. His 2003 book, Seeing Hardy: Film and Television Adaptations of the Fiction of Thomas Hardy, is considered the first book-length study of Hardy on film; and his shorter works have appeared in The Hardy Review, College Literature, and The Thomas Hardy Journal. He has also appeared at international conferences, where he has presented on such subjects as graphic novels, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and James Bond.

This lecture is free to full conference delegates. However tickets can be purchased for £10 (£8 for members) here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hardy-and-the-novel-character-by-professor-paul-niemeyer-tickets-301476252587

For any enquiries please contact THS Secretary - Dr Tracy Hayes - info@hardysociety.org


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