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Tess of the d'Urbervilles . Introduction October 2007. The Victorian Period in literature. Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria ( 1837 — 1901 ) and corresponds to the Victorian era .

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Tess of the d urbervilles l.jpg

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Introduction

October 2007


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The Victorian Period in literature

  • Victorian literature is the literature produced during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837—1901) and corresponds to the Victorian era.

  • It forms a link and transition between the writers of the Romantic period and the dissimilar literature of the 20th century.

  • A great deal of change occurred during this period (brought about because of the Industrial Revolution) so it is not surprising that the literature is often concerned with social reform


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Victorian Authors

  • Significant Victorian novelists and poets include: the Brontë sisters, (Anne, Emily and Charlotte Brontë), Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, William Thackeray, and Oscar Wilde.


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Style of the Victorian Novel

  • Influenced by the large sprawling novels of sensibility of the preceding age

  • tended to be idealized portraits of difficult lives in which hard work, perseverance, love and luck win in the end

  • virtue would be rewarded and wrong-doers are punished.

  • tended to be of an improving nature with a central moral lesson at heart, informing the reader how to be a good Victorian.


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Victorian Compromise

  • the literature from this period demonstrates a duality, or double standard, between the concerns for the individual (the exploitation and corruption both at home and abroad) and national success

  • Often referred to as the Victorian Compromise.

  • Connection to other double standard?


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Thomas Hardy

  • Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

  • English poet and novelist famous for his depictions of the imaginary county "Wessex"

  • Hardy's work reflected a sense of tragedy in human life.


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American vs. British

  • English novelists (Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray) lived in a complex, well-articulated, traditional society and shared with their readers attitudes that informed their realistic fiction.

  • American novelists were faced with a history of strife and revolution, a geography of vast wilderness, and a fluid and relatively classless democratic society. American novels frequently reveal a revolutionary absence of tradition.


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American Novels

  • America was, in relative terms, a youngcountry with little to no tradition

  • American novelists, like Hawthorne, had to depend on his or her own devices.

  • America was, in part, an undefined, constantly moving frontier populated by immigrants speaking foreign languages and following strange and crude ways of life.


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The American Protagonist

  • The main character in American literature might find himself alone among cannibal tribes, or exploring a wilderness, or witnessing lonely visions from the grave, or meeting the devil walking in the forest.

  • Virtually all the great American protagonists have been loners. The democratic American individual had to invent himself.


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English Novels

  • England was rich with tradition and a long-established social structure based in the highest class (the aristocracy) down to the working class and the lowest classes


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the English protagonist

  • Many English novels show a poor main character rising on the economic and social ladder

    • perhaps because of a good marriage or the discovery of a hidden aristocratic past.

  • this does not challenge the aristocratic social structure of England, it confirms it.

  • The rise of the main character satisfies the wish fulfillment of the mainly middle-class readers


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Pessimism vs. Meliorism?

  • Is Hardy, the author of Tess, a pessimist or a meliorist?

  • As readers we will determine this and try to prove our standpoint via rich textual analysis.


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Pessimism

  • from the Latin pessimus (worst)

  • a belief that the experienced world is the worst possible.

  • a general belief that things are bad and tend to become worse.

  • A common conundrum: does one regard a given glass of water as: "Is the glass half empty or half full?" Conventional wisdom expects optimists to reply with half full and pessimists to respond with half empty.


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Meliorism

  • From Latin melior (better)

  • Belief that the universe is becoming progressively better

  • Social Meliorism believes that by educating the people about the condition of the world, the people will be inspired to change the world’s injustices

    • Via artwork, literature, performance, etc.


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Pessimist or Meliorist?

  • Some readers have called Hardy a pessimist, someone who believes that humans are doomed to lives of misery.

  • Hardy considered himself a meliorist, someone who believes that conditions can be improved and who therefore writes about social problems in order to expose them for correction.


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