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Thomas Hardy Writing Dress


Simon Gatrell

This new study provides fresh readings of Thomas Hardy’s work and illuminates the social and cultural history of dress in the nineteenth century. The book argues that Hardy had a more detailed and acute understanding of the importance of dress in forming and regulating personal identity and social relations than any other writer of his time. Structured thematically, it takes into account both nineteenth-century and modern theoretical approaches to the significance of what we wear.
The author gives an extended analysis of individual works by Hardy, showing, for example, that A Pair of Blue Eyes is central to the study of the function of clothing in the expression and perception of sexuality. The Hand of Ethelberta, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and The Woodlanders are examined in order to show the extent to which dress obscures or reveals the nature of the self. Hardy’s other novels, as well as the short stories and poems, are used to confirm the centrality of dress and clothing in Hardy’s work. The book also raises issues such as the gendering of dress, cross-dressing, work clothes and working with clothes, dress and the environment, the symbolism of colour in clothes, and the dress conventions relating to death.


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Preface and Acknowledgements ix


Preface and Acknowledgements Parts of this book first appeared in a dif ferent form in two collections of essays brought together by Keith Wilson, a model editor, whose encour- agement and friendship have been of the first importance to this project. They are: ‘The Erotics of Dress in A Pair of Blue Eyes’ in Thomas Hardy Reappraised: Essays in Honour of Michael Millgate (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006) and ‘Reading Hardy through Dress: The Case of Far From the Madding Crowd’ in A Companion to Thomas Hardy (Chich- ester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). Much of the rest of the book was written during a year in which I was freed from teaching, and my heartfelt thanks go to the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Willson Center for the Arts and the Humanities at the University of Georgia for making this possible. Without the encouragement and commentary of a good number of friends and colleagues this book would never have got past the planning stage, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity of thanking them all. The most fundamental debt is the earliest. It was during long working sessions with Anne Mallory, at which we read and discussed each other’s work, mostly over cof fee and a muf fin at Dunkin Donuts in Athens, that the idea for this book emerged for me, and I am very glad to acknowledge here how much I owe both to her clarity of vision and to her friendship. Soon after I began...

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