"Time's Renewal": Death and Immortality in Thomas Hardy's 'Emma Poems'

Ferguson, Trish "Time's Renewal": Death and Immortality in Thomas Hardy's 'Emma Poems'. In: Literature and Modern Time: Technological Modernity, Glimpses of Eternity, Experiments with Time. Palgrave Macmillan, London. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This essay examines how Hardy’s poetry considers the possibility of immortality, a concept that preoccupied him throughout his life, and which he examined within the context of rapidly shifting philosophical and scientific theories about time. The publication of Wessex Poems in 1898 coincided with the publication of William James’s Human Immortality, at a time when philosophers and spiritualists were grappling with the implications of Darwin’s theory as it pertained to long-held ideas about the soul and posthumous eternity. The subject intrigued Hardy, who acquired a copy of James’s Human Immortality and also Henry Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World (1894). While much critical attention has been focused on Hardy’s ‘Poems of 1912-1913’, scholarly studies of this series are often driven by a biographical interest and primarily examine how this sequence of elegies captures the psychological trauma of sudden bereavement. In my essay I demonstrate that while Hardy’s elegies are highly personal responses to the death of his first wife Emma, they are also reflections on the relationship between time and death. I offer a reading of the ‘Poems of 1912-1913’, in light of Hardy’s interest in spiritualism, and how this reading of Bergson, and his later reading in Einstein, impacted on his later poetry on the subject of mortality and death, including poems published posthumously in Winter Words (1928). Through close reading of poems on mortality from the death of Emma in 1912 to poems from the posthumously published Winter Words (1928), I examine how linear ideas about time in Hardy’s elegies contend with his belief (held from 1875) in the unreality of time, as he examines the possibility of life after death, or life outside of time.

Item Type: Book Section
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > English
Depositing User: Trish Ferguson
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2016 13:49
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2016 13:49
URI: http://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/1582

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