John Heaney, “Arthur Schopenhauer, Evolution, and Ecology in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders” (pp. 516–545)
This essay takes issue with two truisms within Thomas Hardy criticism: first, the widely accepted view that The Woodlanders (1887) is Hardy’s most “Darwinian” work; and second, the standard assumption that Arthur Schopenhauer’s influence on Hardy’s writing can be discerned specifically in the works from Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) onward, and primarily in the unrelenting pessimism that characterizes both writers’ worldviews. The essay calls into question the simplification underlying both positions by suggesting ways in which Schopenhauer’s metaphysics may have influenced Hardy’s treatment of evolutionary themes in The Woodlanders, paying particular attention to Hardy’s choice of plant life as the dominant metaphor within the novel, and the numerous ways in which the evolutionary model it depicts diverges from that formulated by thinkers such as Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. It argues furthermore that Schopenhauer’s philosophy of nature therefore offers the optimum framework through which to interpret Hardy’s unique ecological vision in the novel, and calls for renewed attention to the philosopher’s proto-phenomenological description of reality, the significance of which has been largely overlooked by recent ecocritical scholars searching for a non-Cartesian framework in which to couch their readings.
- © 2017 by The Regents of the University of California