French Association for Thomas Hardy Studies (FATHOM)
Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France
June 5-6, 2014
Deadline: March 1, 2014
“Humanity Appears upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble”
(The Return of the Native, I-ii)
“Thomas Hardy, A Thinker of Humanity”
Thomas Hardy’s life and career occurred in an era of major disruptions and advances in the knowledge of man and in the understanding of his place in the universe. Hardy contributed effectively to the debates of the Victorian period, and responded both as novelist and as poet to the great unsettling questions of his contemporaries in the wake of the appearance of evolutionism but also of the advent of life sciences and of the birth of social sciences. His knowledge of mankind stands at the confluence of old traditions and radically new paradigms. His long life and career allowed him to witness a great array of epistemological changes, yet this only partly explains the depth and complexity of the reflections on man offered by his writings.
Hardy was an attentive reader of Mill, Arnold, Huxley, Spencer, but also of Taine, Renan, or naturally Comte. His works thus bears the obvious trace of his erudition on the theoretical constructs of his time, while informing a very distinctive, idiosyncratic knowledge of a literary non-didactic nature. One is accordingly led to consider this knowledge, following Pierre Macherey’s perspective, as “thought without concepts, thought which does not communicate through the construction of speculative systems whereby the search for truth is assimilated to a line of argumentative demonstration” (A quoi pense la littérature?).
Indeed, from the writings of his time Hardy seems to have extracted tools for the examination of human life – always refusing, though, to adhere to any determined school of thought.
From evolutionism, astronomy, or geology, Hardy seems to have learnt the necessary humility of the human condition. Exploring all forms of beings, living or inanimate, he lingers on the in-between position of the human scale to study its rules and customs with the eye of a social scientist. Despite its pessimistic reputation, Hardy’s work investigates the whole of that “strained, hard-run Humanity” with acute perceptiveness and extended compassion (“In Death Divided”). Forcing man to accept the ordinariness of his place in the universe does not bound his condition so much as it hands over to him the entire responsibility of historical destiny and of the advent of another humanity.
This conference seeks to explore the epistemological import of Hardy’s work. A particular interest will be given to approaches looking into the humanities (philosophy, religion, history, sociology, anthropology…) as well as into life sciences. The conference also welcomes comparative perspectives examining Hardy and other writers or thinkers whose exploration of mankind bears similar traits.
Suggested topics might include, but are not limited to:
- humanity and humanism
- Man and God
- Hardy as an anthropologist
- the history of humanity
- classical legacies and mythical visions of humanity
- humanity and animality
This two-day conference, organized by Laurence Estanove (Université Paris-Descartes / Université de Toulouse – CAS) and Marie Panter (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon) is a collaboration between the CERCC (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Comparées sur la Création, ENS Lyon) and FATHOM (French Association for Thomas Hardy Studies).
It will be held at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France on June 5-6, 2014.
The conference welcomes papers in either English or French. Proceedings will be submitted for publication in the online journal FATHOM (http://fathom.revues.org/).
Please send proposals of no more than one page, along with a short bibliography and biographical statement, to Laurence Estanove firstname.lastname@example.org and Marie Panter email@example.com by March 1, 2014.