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Thomas hardy: positivism and his tragic vision

Kupp, Ellen Ericson (1989) Thomas hardy: positivism and his tragic vision. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis constitutes an investigation into the presence of the philosophy of August Comte in the writings of Thomas Hardy, and seeks to explore the contrast between Comtean Positivism and Hardy's tragic vision. The interaction of Hardy's art with Comte's Positive philosophy is assessed in each of Hardy's writing genres, especially in light of critics' characterization of Hardy's works as "pessimistic”. Chapter One provides an overview of Auguste Comte, his philosophy and the Religion of Humanity that grew from it. Chapter Two is a preliminary examination of the points of intersection between Hardy and Comte's writings, and of Hardy's involvement with proponents of Positivism and the Religion of Humanity. Chapter Three moves directly into Hardy's works with an initial analysis of the novels, noting specific occurrences of Positivist ideas and terminology within this genre. Several novels in particular provide fertile ground for the investigation of Hardy's attitude towards Positivism, and in Chapter Four Hardy's exposure of the failures of Positivism is investigated in The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Uv(_^)bervilles and Jude the Obscure. Chapter Five is devoted solely to Hardy's major epic drama. The Dynasts presents a detailed and, for this thesis, significant dramatization of Positivism and tragedy, in the dialogue between the Spirits of the Overworld concerning the "pros" and "cons" of a Positivist worldview. The Dynasts argues a Positivist viewpoint at the expense of artistic cohesion, but allows the reader a glimpse at Hardy's convictions in the passionate power of his tragic verse. Chapter Six concerns the poetic genre of his work. Hardy's lyric poetry spanned his entire literary career; it is the artistic stream that carries and develops his sense of the tragic through his early faith, subsequent loss of faith, the philosophical meanderings of his middle years, and finally the universally tragic statements of his later years. Positivism thus provides a useful vehicle for understanding the proper distinction between Hardy the pessimist and Hardy the tragedian. Ultimately the predominant perception of tragedy in Hardy's work overwhelms the philosophical moorings and optimistic hope engendered by Comte's Positive Philosophy, but the painful, poetic worlds which Hardy creates are richer and deeper through his explorations of Positivism.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1989
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:40

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