*Apologies for the late posting – I’ve been ill*
One thing I failed to mention yesterday, was the ‘Treasures of the Hardy Collection’ talk by Helen Gibson. It made me want to rush straight back to the DCM archive to look at many more of the TH manuscripts. While at the DCM, I went into the Victorian Gallery and saw the bound manuscript edition of The Woodlanders. He has a charming hand and – though it would take longer – it would be amazing to read entire novels as penned in the author’s hand.
Thursday’s proceedings began with a keynote from Prof. Tom McAlindon on Time and Mutability in Hardy. A fine array of quotations read beautifully helped to shape this lecture into a really beautiful thing to hear – and that was without the interesting content!
The next panel I sampled was smaller but really strong. Education and its effects in Hardy prove to be particularly interesting. I’ve never thought of education as being complicit in the process of (local) cultural amnesia, but of course as a systematic means of knowledge control, it is/can be. I’ve been thinking on this since: how educational reform can divide the generations, and how – for Hardy’s remote country folk – education might dislocate one from his/her cultural roots.
One paper on the folk songs of Far From the Madding was really entertaining, because examples of the songs being sung were played from a cassette tape. Yes, I said it. A cassette tape. Even better, a self-made mix tape including octogenarians singing the songs their forebears taught them. Wonderful. It reminded me of he that fun of hearing ‘A rotty trotty trotty, a rotty trotty tree’ in the Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard, on the same track as Robert Frost reading his poetry. The enthusiasm of these preservers of local culture is marvellous – and infectious.
To prepare for giving my paper, I retired to the lovely Oak Tea Rooms (about which I have waxed lyrical before). There is something calming about the historical surroundings, traditional B/W waitress-wear, old gramophone and penny farthing. Nervous butterflies kept me from demolishing their fabulous cake, though. Ach well.
I was speaking on belatedness and recognition memory in Hardy’s verse, but let’s turn to my fellow panellists. Other people’s projects are endlessly fascinating. The development of artificial light in the long C19th novel – I’m sold! I want to know more about that. In fact, I was watching the adaptation of Under the Greenwood Tree this morning and thinking that our forebears must have been less generally scared of the dark than we, for there was so much more darkness to go around before the invention of electric light. One chap spoke on legal ethics in The Woodlanders, which I’d never considered. The question of altruism is a really fascinating one (I went to a seminar on the problems of medical altruism in Middlemarch once – really good).
Of particular interest to me, was the paper connecting Hardy to burgeoning theories of time (including Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). It’s an area I want to know more about, so hearing quotations and poems I know viewed in this different light was rather wonderful.
In the second postgraduate seminar, we furthered the post-paper Q&A/discussion from postgraduate presentations. I wasn’t very good value, though, being quite tired and post-presentation spaced out. When I was with it, I really enjoyed again being in a lively conversation about all things Hardy: I always want that to happen and it just never does! In the solitary library hours of the literature PhD and the silent study of the archive, it’s hard to feel like part of a community, thus it’s really great to meet other Hardy types (hehe!), to have people to bounce ideas off.
It was a quiet eve I needed after such excitements – dinner in Carluccio’s and a well-deserved glass of red. Even if speaking doesn’t make you particularly nervous, it somehow exhausts you.
Friday morning I packed my belongings and walked into town for the last time this trip. (Weep weep, indeed). I took photos of the lovely Hardy statue I’ve been walking past each day. You’ve gotta tip your hat to the man who makes your academic world go round! I also saw again one of my favourite ‘don’t litter Dorchester’ posters, designed by a local schoolchild. A cool idea well-executed that made me read its message: not bad, Dorchester.
Chairman of the TH Society, Tony Fincham, led us through some Hardyean landscapes to kick off the final day of academia. Knowing this was my last morning in Dorchester, I had to try out a teashop/coffee house I’ve been walking past and wanting to sample. The Gilded Teapot is a charming little place – a little bit like Ollivanders, but for tea/coffee instead of wands. When I went in I couldn’t help saying “what a lovely-smelling place to work!” (and – amazingly – I wasn’t thrown out on the spot). All of the different smells of speciality teas and coffees intermingled to smell simply brilliant. I can imagine several of my close friends quite happily working in such an environment. The mocha was delicious and if I’d had more money or time (or case space) I would have brought back some yummy tea for my flatmate. Anyhow, the message is: if you’re in Dorchester, go to The Gilded Teapot. It’s lovely, the staff are really friendly and you won’t regret it.
The final keynote was Dr. Marion Thain, who I’d been looking forward to. Affective form in Hardy’s poetry – a title that baits people like me. There was a possibility of my doing my PhD with Dr. Thain, and though I can tell it would have been amazing, she’s now moving to NYC, which wouldn’t have worked out so well for me! Having been writing a chapter on ‘Voice’, my focus within Hardy’s poetry has been very aural (and oral) of late. Thus, it was good to be shown again the importance of the visual to Hardy’s verse, especially in ways I had not ever considered. One always wants to end a good conference on a high, and this certainly provided satisfaction.
After that, it was goodbyes to newly-made friends and off on my 5 hour journey back home. I think that Hardy would have liked Kenilworth, which is pleasing. It only remains, then, to thank all of the various conference organisers for a wonderful week – and especially Dr. Jane Thomas, the Academic Director. Thanks also to all the postgrads for being so welcoming and fun to be around – keep in touch!
In the style of the Loony Tunes, that’s all folks! (Until next I find myself in interesting thesis circumstnaces…)
Pics: My official looking badge; Hedgehog hiding under a hat; light lunch Oak Tea Rooms style; post-paper dinner and sneaky glass of D’Abruzzo; affogato to close; Hardy statue; don’t litter poster; the DCM; inside The Gilded Teapot; TGT logo; the Hardy head which presided over the conference.