Donald Mason

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John Ferns


The thesis presents a detailed textual and contextual study of Thomas Hardy as reader of Emile Zola. At the centre of the discussion is George Moore's metaphor for the novel as an inanimate "doll"--a child-like object of sexless implicity, the political and economic offspring of social convention, variously violated at the hands of its keepers and its readers (Literature at Nurse, 1885). Hardy's own attempts to demolish "the doll of English fiction" and to create a more "virile" type and of novel are viewed in the context of his reading of Zola and in relation to the controversy surrounding Henry Vizetelly, Zola's English pubilsher, who was convicted on charges of obscene libel in 1888 and 1889.

Hardy's reading of Zola came, it is argued, at a particularly critical point in his career and was, in some respects, crucial in determining the tone, imagery and form of the later novels. Nevertheless, his reading of Zola was not, of course, an exclusive factor in determining Hardy's changing emphasis throughout the period, but rather was one of a number of determining factors. The purpose, then, is to provide a detailed context for Hardy's readership, and to then examine the relationship between Zola and the body of Hardy's work in the decade between 1886 and 1896, or from the writing of The Woodlanders (1887) to the publication of Jude the Obscure (1896). The metaphorical doll, representing, in part, the surrounding system of the English novel, of the gendered reader and the socially, politically and economically driven construction of a prescribed morality, provides a constant framework within which to view Hardy's reading of Zola and the writing of his later fiction.

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