Thomas Hardy: Novelist and Poet

Course details

From £1365.00

Sun 14 Jul 2019 - Sat 20 Jul 2019

Thomas Hardy: Novelist and Poet


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Hardy stopped writing novels in 1895 but lived until 1928, writing mostly poetry. This course will consider novels from different stages of his career. “Under the Greenwood Tree” (1872) is sometimes described as an idyll, but we already see signs of the melancholy which characterises later work. “The Mayor of Casterbridge” (1886) shows sharper focus on rural change and has at its centre a figure who may or may not be considered tragic. Hardy’s final novel, “Jude the Obscure” (1895) was hugely controversial in its time and its reception is sometimes said to have helped determine Hardy’s decision to give up writing fiction. During discussion of the novels, there will be reference to poems which echo the novels’ themes.  

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


Hardy’s life. Is he a nineteenth or a twentieth century novelist? Discussion of biographical elements in his fiction and of his relationship to modernism.


“Under the Greenwood Tree”. The novels which preceded it. Discussion of plot structure and use of description and dialect. The themes of social change and romance, ideas of comedy and tragedy.


“The Mayor of Casterbridge” The novel’s context and the influences upon it. Henchard and other characters. Place and social change. The coincidental and the bizarre.


“Jude the Obscure” The novel’s context in relation to education, relationships and changes to rural life. Discussion of these three issues and of the major characters. Is the novel a prose tragedy?


Concluding discussion with reference Hardy’s achievement as a novelist and an evaluation also of his work as a poet.

Recommended reading

Hardy, Thomas. Under the Greenwood Tree; Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge; Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure; Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): £1545.00
Programme fee (with single standard accommodation and meals): £1365.00


Ms Val Dodd


Val Dodd has taught a variety of courses for OUDCE’s international programmes and also to European undergraduates and American students on Junior Year Abroad courses in Oxford. Her publications cover a wide range of subjects, from George Eliot to bibliography, intellectual history and rural crime. She has been a senor magistrate in Buckinghamshire.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.