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Durham e-Theses
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Sue Bridehead: A Rorschach Test

ROY-CHOWDHURY, SREEMOYEE (2018) Sue Bridehead: A Rorschach Test. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis) - Accepted Version


This thesis is a metacritical survey of the criticism on Sue Bridehead’s portrayal in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, from the time of its publication in 1895 to now, and is intended to be a comprehensive overview and analysis of the major critical lines of enquiry about Sue’s characterisation. Since the scope of this thesis is to engage with over one hundred years of literary criticism, I keep the focus concentrated primarily on the critical responses to the depiction of Sue. I discuss the reasons behind the sustained critical interest in her; and show how she has global appeal in unifying as well as differentiating reader-responses, and opening up new modes of theoretical analysis surrounding the complexity of her representation.
The objective of this study is to demonstrate how Sue’s enigmatic characterisation effectually serves the purpose of a Rorschach test. I display how analysing her representation makes readers and critics commit to certain positions. This leads to a plurality in the critical responses - a development that is facilitated by Hardy, who leaves deliberate narrative gaps in the novel. I discuss how this creates the space for the readers to fill the textual gaps with their own presuppositions, and cultural and theoretical beliefs, while analysing Sue’s portrayal.

This thesis draws on Hardy’s letters, literary notebooks, and biographies to contextualise the portrayal of Sue, as a supplement to the main body of analysis of the critical material on Sue that is available in book, essay and article forms. Finally, I suggest a way forward in critical studies of Hardy’s works using Sue’s portrayal as a case study through the application of the theoretical framework of ‘transculturalism’.

This research seeks to contribute to the body of Hardy scholarship by providing an overview of the existing critical commentary on Sue, while emphasising the ongoing contemporaneity of his most controversial characterisation.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Thomas Hardy, Feminism, Reader-response theory, transculturalism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Jan 2018 13:04

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