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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.4, 623 ~ 643, 2019
The Rise of a Female Liberal Subject in Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Sun Jai Kim
I contend that Hardy seeks to redefine the concept of liberal individuality of Victorian England through Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The paper investigates how Hardy explores an alternative way of pursuing individuality by focusing on the narrator’s fluctuating focalization on Tess. Critically engaging with the notions of mid-Victorian liberalism suggested by Lauren Goodlad in Victorian Literature and the Victorian State (2003) and Elaine Hadley in Living Liberalism: Practical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain (2010), I ground the novel’s reformulation of a liberal subject in Tess’s solitary movements in the desolate field, which are continuously associated with her labor. Different from Hadley who locates mid-Victorian liberal individualism in abstracted middle-class male bodies, their elitist pursuit of the liberal arts, and the reproduction of the abstract citizenship through the system of the ballot, Hardy reformulates Victorian liberal individualism to include working- class women like Tess. I argue that Hardy explores the feasibility of liberal individualism through the working-class woman’s critical investigation of her socially outcast status and her various walking activities mainly associated with her labor in the open field. In particular, I closely investigate the ways in which the male narrator invests Tess’s perspectives with great importance throughout the narrative. The ways in which Tess’s perspectives are delivered in the narrative are often divergent and unconventional and yet will finally establish a basis of a new female liberal subject. I focus on the intricately designed moments of internal focalization on Tess, particularly around the novel’s uses of the loaded term, “misery.”
Key Words
Liberal Individuality, Agency, Misery, Understanding, Working-Class
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