About the Thomas Hardy and Religion course
G. K. Chesterton once described Thomas Hardy as ‘a sort of village atheist brooding and blaspheming over the village idiot.’
This pithy quotation, though memorable, is, however, far from the truth.
Hardy had a complex relationship with religion and the church which cannot be encapsulated in an easy formula. He grew up in a high church parish, went through a markedly evangelical phase, hoped to become a priest and then for intellectual and personal reasons lost his faith during his 20s. This loss of faith was, however, something that he always regretted and he engaged with theological issues throughout his career.
Hardy’s religious and in particular his biblical knowledge was prodigious and there are almost certainly more biblical allusions in Hardy’s fiction than in any other English novelist. He was also thoroughly versed in the great religious classics. He read Richard Hooker as a teenager and had a deep knowledge of Augustine, Milton and Bunyan.
During this study day we shall explore Hardy’s religious ideas as they are manifested in his some of his novels and poetry. It will be shown that to understand the great Wessex author fully an understanding of the religious elements in his writings is essential. It will also be demonstrated that Hardy can deliver important insights to people of faith helping them to a deeper and more humane understanding of their religions and the way they are practiced.
The day includes an hour-long visit to Salisbury Museum which is hosting an exhibition on Thomas Hardy in 2022 (Saturday 28 May – Sunday 30 Oct), and is part of a four-museum exhibition on Hardy’s life and work.
About the Course Leader
Richard Franklin is the author of Thomas Hardy and Religion (2021) and Towards the Abolition of the Nations State? European and National Identity in Christian Perspective (2004). He was the founding editor of the journal Studies in Christian Ethics. His essays and articles have been published in Modern Churchman, Theology, and The Hardy Society Journal.
Richard spent 29 years as a Church of England parish priest and has worked as a university chaplain and a director of studies in a theological college. He is a canon of Salisbury, a former member of the General Synod and Chair of The Thomas Hardy Society.