The THS Annual Study Day 2023


A Thomas Hardy Society Study Day

Saturday 15th April 2023 at 10:00am

The Town Hall, Corn Exchange Building, Dorchester

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Professor Tim Dolin (Curtin University, Perth, Australia)

Professor Angelique Richardson (University of Exeter)

Dr Arthur Keegan-Bole (Composer)

A Seminar run by Mark Chutter (THS Academic Director)

And a Performance by the New Hardy Players

2023 marks the 145th anniversary of the publication of The Return of the Native. After the social satire The Hand of Ethelberta received a lukewarm response Hardy's subsequent novel was highly praised for its 'insatiably observant' descriptions of Egdon Heath, a character in its own right. D.H. Lawrence claimed that the setting provided 'the real stuff of tragedy' and it would also inspire the composer Gustave Holst. The Heath serves as a touchstone for each character, loved by some, loathed by others. Red in tooth and claw it claims as victims those who are unable to appreciate its beauty. The characters have proved devisive from the beginning: a review in the Athaenaeum described the plot as 'a man who is in love with two women, and a woman who is in love with two men; the man and the woman being both selfish and sensual...the two persons know no other law than the gratification of their own passions'. Eustacia Vye as hot-blooded heroine suffering from ennui is compared to a witch and her amour Damon Wildeve is linked with the devil, though it is the omniscient Diggory Venn who was famously described by J.O. Bailey as a 'Mephistopholean visitant'. Is Venn a voyeur as has been claimed by a number of feminist critics, or is he the unheimlich Keeper of the Heath? Is Clym Yeobright to be pitied or does he deserve his fate? Is the relationship between he and Mrs Yeobright uncomfortably Oedipal and are the Rustics simply an entertaining chorus or something more deeply Pagan in nature? The Thomas Hardy Society warmly invites proposals for twenty-minute presentations on any aspect of The Return of the Native which may include, but is by no means limited to:

Setting as Living Entity
The Unheimliche or Uncanny
Gender Relations and Representations of Femininities and Masculinities
Psychoanalytical Readings of Character and Setting
Darwinism vs Creationism and Evolutionary Discourse
Witchcraft and the Devil
Paganism and Folklore
The Importance of Non-Human Characters
Hardy and the Anthropocene – Eco-Critical Readings
Contemporary and Modern Critical Reception of the Novel
Film/Play Adaptations

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To support attendance at this day, which has been designed to appeal to academics, students and general enthusiasts alike, the Society will be offering bursaries of £100 each to students who would otherwise find travel or accommodation costs prohibitive. Please send proposals of not more than 350 words, and no later than 28 February 2023, along with a brief description, if you are a student, of how a bursary would benefit your studies, to Dr Tracy Hayes at

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