Thomas Hardy's naturalism offers a view of human affairs based on probable outcomes that makes visible the biopolitical realignments of society at the end of the nineteenth century. In this essay, the figure of the animal in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) acts as a test case for the idea that natural categories become the focus of a form of political rationalization based on chance. Wessex, the historical name Hardy gives to the fictional land on which most of his writing is set, can be understood from this perspective as a biopolitical construct upon which humans both obey and resist the natural laws that determine their fate.
Hardy's Wessex and the Natural History of Chance
mario ortiz-robles is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of The Novel as Event (2010), Literature and Animal Studies (forthcoming), and, with Caroline Levine, co-editor of Narrative Middles: Navigating the Nineteenth-Century Novel (2011). He is currently at work on a project on fiction after Darwin.
Mario Ortiz-Robles; Hardy's Wessex and the Natural History of Chance. Novel 1 May 2016; 49 (1): 82–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3458245
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