Male, female or bothÀ: Androgyny in thomas hardy's fiction
This thesis is no more than a tiny drop in the ocean of Hardyan studies dealing with gender. Leaving the beaten path of studies devoted to the traditional binary opposition male female, this research explores a third, intermediate, and medial gender otherwise known as androgyny. It examines the presence/ absence of androgyny in the Hardyan protagonists of selected novels, namely the major novels Far From the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Jude the Obscure (1895), The Return of the Native (1878) and the minor ones The Hand of Ethelberta (1876) and A Laodicean(1881), and exposes the outcomes of the presence/absence of androgyny to highlight the Hardyan sexual politics which consists in delineating characters who are neither male nor female, but both so the argument and hypothesis of this research goes. For the theoretical framework, the research draws on a variety of theories subsumed under the major bearings which is Queer Theory in its Butlerian orientation, i.e., performance theory. The other theories which have proved to be equally relevant are the theory of androgyny as put forward by Virginia Woolf, and Sandra Bem plus the theory of tragedy. The research reveals that some of the Hardyan protagonists, namely Gabriel Oak, EthelbertaPetherwin and Paula Power who are androgynous cope well with the different situations they face and get along the gender trouble some of them endure. Some others such as EustaciaVye, Jude Fawley and Sue Bridehead become tragic characters because of their androgyneity while Michael Henchard ends tragically because of lack of androgyny. This research aims to provide evidence as to Hardy’s recourse to androgyny to get around the ruthless Victorian sexual politics that had room for two categories of gender. It also targets to highlight the cruciality of androgyny in the psychological well-being of the characters under discussion. This research thus seeks to reestablish Thomas Hardy as a writer who is ahead of his time in terms of conception of issues such as gender.