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Thomas Hardy's Unmen and Othered Men

Tracy Hayes (Thomas Hardy Society)

Published In:
Published Date:

January 2020


Thomas Hardy, Masculinity, Other, Unman, Uncanny, Liminality


A majority of critics and readers seem to base their readings of Thomas Hardy's characters, both male and female, on a hetero-normative construction of nineteenth-century masculinity. However, I argue that Hardy's novels can profitably be read as delineating specific liminal masculinities that can be designated as 'other' using concepts of gender originating in nineteenth-century biological and psychological discourses. In this way Hardy's novels embody a form of resistance that transcends contemporaneous societal conventions. He employs certain characters as agencies of anxiety and discomfort in order to demonstrate to his readership that the 'other' may in fact perform the function of a unifying principle within the confines of the text. Rather than be banished to the margins for their perceived 'anomalies', figures such as the Unman and the Other are integral to their respective communities, not in spite of their liminality, but because of it.

Published in:



114 - 132

Date of Publication:

January 2020

About the author

Tracy Hayes (Thomas Hardy Society)

Tracy Hayes received her doctorate from the Open University in 2017 with a thesis that investigated representations of Victorian masculinity in the novels of Thomas Hardy. She is the Secretary, Website and Social Media Director, and an Academic Committee member of the Thomas Hardy Society U.K., and the Book Reviews editor and Publications Checklist Director for the Thomas Hardy Association U.S. She has published widely on Thomas Hardy and has articles forthcoming in Victorian Popular Fictions Journal, DNHAS Proceedings, Palgrave Communications, and Short Fiction in Theory & Practice. Her current project explores Gothic masculinity in the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Hardy, and M.R. James.

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