"To name the unnamable" : Thomas Hardy's use of classical myths in Tess

Title: "To name the unnamable" : Thomas Hardy's use of classical myths in Tess
Author: Kundu, Rama
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2008, vol. 34, iss. 1, pp. [89]-103
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Type: Article
License: Not specified license

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Thomas Hardy, who had perceived life as a logicless riddle, unexplainable by science, reason or systematic philosophy, found in myth a way of articulating his puzzlement and wonder, agony and bewilderment at the mystery of human suffering. Often Hardy would evoke a known myth specifically by emphasizing his defamiliarizing twists of departure, and weaving it into a rich pattern of interpenetration with a gamut of other myths and the reality itself. It is Hardy's way of "making it new" (a la Pound) long before the modernist era, and thereby "naming the unnamable" (Brooke-Rose 1971: 222) mysteries of life and suffering. Hardy uses mythical allusions towards creating an evocative pattern for the narration, - placing the story of individuals' travails within ever-widening circles of evocations. Sometimes Hardy makes direct allusions to myths and mythical names; sometimes he evokes nuances of mythical events/anecdotes, albeit with his own subtle twists and fine departures from the source tales. Myth increasingly came to inform his image-pattern, ideational frame and plot-patterns, sometimes all in one go. Tess, a later novel, can be examined as a wonderful case in point. -- Certain familiar myths can be seen operating behind the novel Tess in patterns of interpenetration and this pervades the narrative schema as well as textural fabric. Ancient myths and legends intersect, get layered upon, converge into, and interpenetrate one another on the site of the textual space in a rich pattern of intersection, departure and re-creation.
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