From Wessex Poems to Time's Laughingstocks : An eco-critical approach to the poetry of Thomas Hardy

Tait, Adrian Geoffrey (2010). From Wessex Poems to Time's Laughingstocks : An eco-critical approach to the poetry of Thomas Hardy. PhD thesis The Open University.



The aim of this thesis is to re-evaluate the poetry of Thomas Hardy from an ecocritical perspective, and in so doing, show how and in what ways Hardy's poetic oeuvre represents a revealing response to the environment, and an important and still relevant comment on humankind's relationship to it.

As the Introduction explains in more detail, the thesis concentrates on the verse drama and verse collections published between 1898 and 1909. However, Chapter 1 opens with an eco-critical analysis of Hardy's earliest surviving poem, 'Domicilium', written 1857-60; the Chapter develops into a discussion of the origins of eco-criticism as a theoretical approach with a political edge. Chapter 2 discusses the complex Victorian concept of 'Nature', which shaped Hardy's own response to the environment. Chapter 3 engages with Hardy's career as a novel writer, and notes the way in which it informs his later poetry. Chapter 4 extends the eco-critical analysis to Hardy's poetry, focusing on Wessex Poems, his first verse collection. Although short, the collection shows how Hardy was already shaping his own poetic sense of the natural world. This theme is developed in Chapter 5, on Poems of the Past and Present, a collection notable for a series of poems with a bio-centric focus on the natural world in general and bird life in particular. Chapter 6 deals with The Dynasts, a retelling of the Napoleonic Wars through which Hardy dramatized his belief that all life on earth is connected by the workings of the 'Immanent Will'. Chapter 7 discusses Time's Laughingstocks, Hardy's bleakest reading of the human condition. The Conclusion analyses another individual poem, 'The Convergence of the Twain', written following the loss of the Titanic in 1912, and summarises Hardy's distinctive contribution to our emerging sense of what might constitute a meaningful 'eco-poetic'.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions