Nature and Culture in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Elisabeth Rallo-Ditche


In the 19th century, Th.Hardy’s novels offer us a surprising and remarkable example of a reflection on the relationship between Nature and Culture : he undertakes to depict a rural society – in the process of disappearing – which experiences this relationship in a mode other than that of « Naturalism » (in the sense that Philippe Descola attributes to this word, to designate our western way of considering the world) which was nascent in his time. Before the anthropology of today, Th. Hardy shows precisely a different way of apprehending the world among « hodges », in a region of England in the middle of the19th century. He reveals to the reader another way of considering the relationship whith non-human beings, which is just as worthy and interesting as that of the « naturalists » of his day. The individuals he describes are aware of an inner life and of the experience of their body situated in space but they also have the possibility of understanding the link they have with the non-human beings which surround them. Tess, the main character of the novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, is one of these individuals, she lives in harmony with Nature and shows another kind of relationship with the plant and animal world. Her social exclusion will therefore be attributable not only to the ethics of society in her time, but also to a new conception of Nature : she cannot live in this world which is becoming one of triumphant Naturalism.


Hardy; Novel; Nature; Culture; Naturalism


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