Free Lectures Hosted by Mirthy Online Community

Thomas Hardy Lecture Series

Free Lectures Hosted by Mirthy Online Community

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Four Weekly Lectures From 12th April to 3rd May, each at 4pm via Zoom.

Mirthy offers a comprehensive programme of events, designed to bring likeminded people together to share interests and experiences, learn new things and make new connections, at home and around the world. It’s all about fulfilment and wellbeing. The Mirthy group are a caring and empathetic team who are driven to create an inclusive community where people can learn, share, and connect with others through a variety of events that are active, sociable, and uplifting.

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Interested in Thomas Hardy? Whether you've been a fan for decades, have recently discovered his books, or simply want to know more about the writer, join this series with the Thomas Hardy Society exploring different aspects of Hardy, his life, and his books.

1) Hardy and Gender with Dr Tracy Hayes (THS Secretary) (12th April)

Hardy is renowned for his great psychological insight into women through the characters of Tess Durbeyfield, Sue Bridehead and Bathsheba Everdene to name but three of the most powerful female characters in Victorian literature. However, Hardy – 'the man who used to notice such things' – was equally adept at portraying the vagaries of male psychological states. This lecture will look at what was known as 'the lot of Woman' during the nineteenth century, and then focus upon Tess of the d'Urbervilles as an example of Hardy's response to the expected gender conventions of his day.

2) Hanging, Punishment, and Justice in the works of Hardy with Mark Chutter (THS Academic Director) (19th April)

The heavily pregnant Fanny Robin struggles to climb the steps to the Casterbridge workhouse. Tess waits at Stonehenge for her arrest and punishment, there is no going back for 'The Ruined Maid' or the convict at Upwey Railway Station. Eustacia Vye drowns because of a society that is unable to accept her sexuality both socially and psychologically and the water is simultaneously punishing and yet cleansing. Jude, Sue and the children are 'obscured' because their needs are not visible to the eyes of the ruling class. This is the world of Hardy – where characters are living on the margins of society in poverty – where they are punished and where there is little justice in a system that is both punitive and where the rich prevail – where capitalism oppresses and where there is no escape, no life and little future – as Tess exclaims to Angel with resigned acceptance of her fate 'have they come for me?'

3) Hardy and Religion with Reverend Canon Richard Franklin (THS Chairman) (26th April)

G.K. Chesterton once described Thomas Hardy as 'a sort of village atheist brooding and blaspheming over the village idiot'. This simplistic quotation, though memorable, is, however, far from the truth. Hardy had a complex relationship with religion and the church which cannot be encapsulated in an easy formula. He had a religious upbringing but for various reasons lost his faith during his twenties. This loss of faith was, however, something that he always regretted and he engaged with theological issues throughout his career. His religious and in particular his biblical knowledge was prodigious and there are almost certainly more biblical allusions in Hardy's fiction than in any other English novelist. This lecture will briefly explore Hardy's religious ideas as they are manifested in some of his novels and poetry and will show that to appreciate him fully an understanding of the religious elements in his writings is essential.

4) Exploring Hardy's Wessex with Dr Tony Fincham (THS Vice-President) (3rd May)

This is a whistle-stop tour through all the main sites of Hardy's Wessex, starting at Higher Bockhampton on Egdon Heath, where he was born; then extending to Dorchester and through West Dorset; subsequently following his fiction further afield to Cornwall, the Jurassic Coast, Blackmore Vale (Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and north to Oxford (Jude the Obscure). Hardy's 'partly real partly dream country' will be explored in relation to his fiction, his poetry and his life story. Plentiful illustrations throughout with brief citations from his works.

DURATION: 4 x 60 mins
ONLINE ZOOM EVENT: Join from your computer, phone or tablet (a recording will be available)

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Meet the Host, Thomas Hardy Society
The Thomas Hardy Society was created in 1978 to promote the life and works of one of the greatest writers of the nineteenth century, Dorset’s finest. We are one of the largest literary societies in the world with over 1000 members worldwide and regularly host events such as conferences, study days and walks through Hardy country. We also publish a journal three times a year, a newsletter every two months, and we have a very large social media presence and interactive website.

Mark Chutter is the THS Academic Director. He is an award-winning senior school teacher who is incredibly active in bringing Hardy to a younger population.

Dr Tony Fincham is a Vice-President of the THS and was its Chairman for many years. He is the pre-eminent authority on the topography of Hardy’s novels and has written books on exploring Hardy’s Wessex. He is also a GP and his PhD investigated the medical aspects of Hardy’s works.

Rev. Canon Richard Franklin is the current Chairman of the THS, he is also an archivist of the Thomas Hardy Collection at the Dorset Museum. His most recent book is Thomas Hardy and Religion: Theological Themes in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure (2021).

Dr Tracy Hayes is the Secretary and website/social media director of the THS. She is also an English Language and Literature tutor who has spoken on Hardy at numerous conferences and has had many essays and chapters published on Hardy, Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James. Her PhD investigated masculinities in Hardy’s novels.

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