A Weekend Conference Featuring Dorset's Darker Side!

Hardy and Gothic Wessex

A Weekend Conference Featuring Dorset's Darker Side!

Friday 28-Sunday 30 October 2022 at Dorchester Town Hall in the Corn Exchange Building

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Keynote Speakers:

Jeremy Harte (Curator of Bourne Hall Museum): 'Fate and the Folk: Vernacular Roots for Hardy's View of Life'

Dr Jen Baker (University of Warwick): 'A gruesome fragment of humanity: Hardy's Gothic Children'

Jerry Bird (The Folklore Society): 'God, Death and the Flea: Exploring the Gothic in the Later Works of T.F. Powys'

Trev Hill (University of Warmia and Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland): Mary Webb: From super-Mare to the Supernatural'

Dr Jessica Campbell (McKendree University, St. Louis, USA): 'Fairy Lore in the Wessex Novels'

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The rural idyll of Thomas Hardy's Wessex does not immediately conjure images commensurate with the stereotypical Gothic tropes of crumbling castles, life after death, the cessation of patrilineage, ghosts, premature burial and confinement. However, Hardy utilized Gothic tropes in many of his short stories and arguably some of his novels, particularly the sensation tale Desperate Remedies. In works such as 'Barbara of the House of Grebe', 'The Doctor's Legend', 'The Withered Arm' and 'Fiddler of the Reels' we see Hardy making recourse to folk-horror legends and practices and psycho-sexual torture and confinement. Ghosts and their portents abound in his poetry and he was acutely aware of the presence of the Unheimliche – that which should be repressed but has reared its ugly head in order to frighten, to reaffirm the existence of the Uncanny.

Gothic Wessex is not the province of Hardy alone – many authors dabbling in the Gothic either lived in Wessex, were based there during the writing of a particular piece of work or took their inspiration from what on the surface appears to be a picture-postcard place to live, but is so very much more than that. Sir Frederick Treves who took The Elephant Man, John Merrick, under his wing, was educated in Dorchester under the tutelage of William Barnes; the Shelleys are interred at St. Peter's Church in Bournemouth; Sabine Baring-Gould – author of nineteenth-century folk-horror and werewolf tales - was a contemporary and aquaintance of Hardy's and donated a pair of exquisite Gothic chairs to St. George's Church in Fordington in Dorcheser; the extraordinary Powys family made Dorset their literary heartland, Theodore Francis Powys penned many allegorical short stories and novels in which God, Death and Love walk incarnate among the rural poor of Wessex; John Meade-Faulkner, another Dorset writer, produced one of the greatest Gothic tales of the fin-de-siecle: 'The Lost Stradivarius'; Robert Louis Stevenson was living at 'Skerryvore' just outside Bournemouth when he wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; and arguably the greatest ghost-story writer of all time – M.R. James – set his chilling tale 'The Wailing Well' in Dorset outside the deserted village of Tyneham, appearing in person to read the story to the annual Eton College Boy Scout Convention in 1927 at Warbarrow Bay – one wonders what the young boys thought of the many ghosts and hangings and things converging upon them! Dorset also boasts its own Screaming Skull – at Bettiscombe Manor – which screams if moved.

Hardy knew and was intimate with many of these authors and representatives of Dorset folklore.


Friday 28th October

4pm - Welcome and Announcements

4.30pm Opening Lecture – Jeremy Harte (Curator of Bourne Hall Museum): 'Fate and the Folk: Vernacular Roots for Hardy's View of Life'

5.30pm Wine Reception

6.30pm Dinner at a nearby restaurant

8pm A Ghost Walk Around Dorchester led by Town Crier Alistair Chisholm

Saturday 29th October

10am Dr Jen Baker (University of Warwick): 'A gruesome fragment of humanity': Hardy's Gothic Children

11am Morning Break

11.30am Jerry Bird (The Powys Society): 'God, Death and the Flea: Exploring the Gothic in the Later Works of T.F. Powys'

12.30pm Panel 1: 'Alternative Authors'

Mark Chutter (THS Academic Director) – 'This is the meaning of what Satan showed me in the vision': Women and Witchcraft in Hardy's 'The Withered Arm' and 'Lolly Willowes' by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Dr Rebecca Mills and Roy Watson (Bournemouth University) – 'A Map is Not all the Plot': Unhomely Houses and Liminal Landscapes in Gladys Mitchell's Awkward Gothic Wessex

Dr Robert Colvin (Brigham Young University-Idaho) – 'The Gothic Mirrors: Reflections of Memory and Fear in the Works of Thomas Hardy and Jorge Luis Borges'

1.30pm Lunch

2.30pm Trev Hill (University of Warmia and Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland) - 'Mary Webb:From Super-Mare to the Supernatural'

3.30pm Panel 2: 'Hardy's Gothic Novels'

Rubina Valli (University of Verona) – 'Gothic Elements and Modern Identity in Hardy's Return of the Native'

Jessica Monaco (Stanford University-California) – 'Genre-Blending in A Pair of Blue Eyes and Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Gothic Stories and an Unfamiliar Uncanny in Hardy's Fiction'

Dr Julia Wiedemann (Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt) – 'Nightly Scenes and Gothic Landscapes: Hardy's Female Seductresses and Their Natural Environments'

4.45pm End of talks, Bar Opens at 6pm

6.30pm Buffet Dinner at Conference Venue

7.30pm Performance: Johnathan Goodwin (Don't Go Into the Cellar) – M.R. James's 'The Wailing Well' and 'The Screaming Skulls of Dorset'

Sunday 30th October

10am Dr Jessica Campbell (McKendree University, St. Louis, USA): 'Fairy Lore in the Wessex Novels'

11am Panel 3: 'Hardy's Unique Gothic'

Finn Horden (Exeter University) – 'On “Wessex Heights”: A Romantic Disposition in Gothic Conditions'

Rachel Shields (St. Louis University-Missouri) – 'Always Towards the Hedge': Hedgerows and the Gothic in the Novels of Thomas Hardy

Alan Smith (Independent Researcher), Robert Edgar (York St. John University) and John Marland (York St. John University) – 'Thomas Hardy and the Folk Horror Tradition'

12pm Refreshments

12.30pm Coach Trip to Bournemouth to visit Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Skerryvore' and the Shelley Monument and Graves at St. Peter's Church with a talk given by The Shelley Trust

4pm Coach will leave Bournemouth to return to Dorchester

5pm End


Tickets are £90 which covers the entire weekend including talks, events and tours, a wine reception on opening night, Saturday lunch and a buffet dinner on Saturday night, and all refreshments.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hardy-and-gothic-wessex-tickets-396566530167

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



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