THOMAS HARDY'S CHANGING CONCEPTION OF THE FEMALE SUBJECT
Morelli, Henriette Marguerite
The feminist framework used in this thesis addresses subjectivity, power, and discourse in an attempt to demonstrate how Th6mas Hardy's texts construct meaning and subject positions for the reader. A close textual analysis of an early, a middle and a late Hardy novel demonstrates how power is exercised through fictive discourse. In Hardy's early novel, The Return of the Native, the necessarily hierarchal opposition of man/woman reflects a unitary intentional subjectivity. One side of the opposition, man, becomes the key concept in negatively defining the other, woman. By deconstructing the text it becomes possible to discover how the discourse achieves its effects and to reverse this opposition. This can only be done with reference to issues of social context, particular interests and power. The wider historically specific discursive context and the power relations which structure the literary field must be taken into account. In Hardy's middle novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge, a gradual shift in the empowerment of the female begins to emerge. The patriarchal silencing of women begins to give way to female articulation in writing. In his late novel, Tess of the D'Urbervil1es, Hardy's female protagonist speaks out for herself and occupies resistant subject positions. Tess emerges not as a unity, but as a multiple, decentered and internally contradictory subject. Tess's multiple subjectivity represents deliberate change on Hardy's part, and emphasizes the dialectical relationship between women and the language in which their subjectivity is constructed.