Publication Date

April 2017


Joseph Siry, Stephanie Weiner


Art History, English


English (United States)


Thomas Hardy’s career in architecture prior to his work as an author undoubtedly influenced his novels. This thesis explores how Hardy’s work in restoration caused him to adopt preservationist views, which are present thematically in Far from the Madding Crowd, Under the Greenwood Tree, and The Woodlanders. The Victorian debate between preservation and restoration revolved around how best to care for historical buildings. Restorationists believed that a building’s style should be restricted to one particular moment, which meant eliminating all conflicting styles. They also prized a building’s function over its history or human connections and remade a building’s failing parts in fresh materials. Preservationists, on the other hand, like Hardy, believed that a building should remain in as close to an unaltered condition as possible because of the history and human connections attached to the space. Throughout his career as an architect, Hardy helped restore many medieval churches, which he later came to regret. His firsthand experience with the negative effects of restoration is presumably what turned him against the practice and toward preservation. Hardy’s 1906 “Memories of Church Restoration,” which he presented to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (a preservationist group of which he was a member), presents his definition of preservation as a moral duty to maintain the human associations contained within an architectural space or risk emotional distress. Hardy’s novels exemplify and complicate this definition. While Far from the Madding Crowd and Under the Greenwood Tree straightforwardly present Hardy’s vision of preservation, The Woodlanders demonstrates the limits of humanity’s valuing the past too highly.



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