© 2016

Thomas Hardy: Folklore and Resistance


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 1-33
  3. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 71-92
  4. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 93-118
  5. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 119-142
  6. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 143-171
  7. Jacqueline Dillion
    Pages 172-177
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 178-206

About this book


This book reassesses Hardy’s fiction in the light of his prolonged engagement with the folklore and traditions of rural England. Drawing on wide research, it demonstrates the pivotal role played in the novels by such customs and beliefs as ‘overlooking’, hag-riding, skimmington-riding, sympathetic magic, mumming, bonfire nights, May Day celebrations, Midsummer divination, and the ‘Portland Custom.’ This study shows how such traditions were lived out in practice in village life, and how they were represented in written texts – in literature, newspapers, county histories, folklore books, the work of the Folklore Society, archival documents, and letters. It explores tensions between Hardy’s repeated insistence on the authenticity of his accounts and his engagement with contemporary anthropologists and folklorists, and reveals how his efforts to resist their ‘excellently neat’ categories of culture open up wider questions about the nature of belief, progress, and social change.


Thomas Hardy British Literature American Literature Folklore Anthropology Victorian Anthropology Folk Culture Folklore Culture Dorset Apotropaic Objects Ritual Year Belief Customs Magic Sympathetic Magic Evil Eye

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Pepperdine UniversityMalibuUSA

About the authors

Jacqueline Dillion is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Pepperdine University, USA. She holds a PhD in English from the University of St Andrews. She has previously served as director of Harding University's London and Paris study abroad programs, where she also taught courses in British literature. While carrying out her doctoral research, she was invited to become the first Scholar in Residence at Max Gate, Thomas Hardy's house in Dorset. She has also lectured widely around the world, and has been featured several times on BBC television and radio and on ITV.  

Bibliographic information


“This lucid, highly readable book draws on a rich variety of primary and secondary material about the folk beliefs that Thomas Hardy incorporates into his work. Dillion's deft analysis of the cultural implications of folk practices will be essential reading for anyone interested in the intersections between Hardy and folklore.” (Mary Rimmer, University of New Brunswick, Canada)

“This immediately establishes itself as the most authoritative single study of the complex relationship between folk belief and resurrected custom, survival and revival, in both Hardy's Wessex and the Dorset that inspired it: an essential book for Hardy scholars and enthusiasts.” (Keith Wilson, University of Ottawa, Canada)

“It is no small achievement to deliver a fresh and revealing examination of Hardy, given the extensive nature of Hardy criticism as it now stands, and I do regard this work as outstandingly original in its insight and overarching argument. This new study offers a ground-breaking, original and authoritative account of the folklore elements in Hardy to which all students of his work will now be indebted. ” (Roger Ebbatson, Lancaster University, UK)