S08-03 11

Through the traditional male lens. Subjective conceptualisations in the construal of the morally unfit fallen woman

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Julia López NarváezUniversidad Complutense de Madrid

Enfoque

This paper has the objective of analysing the subjective linguistic choices that Alec d’Urberville, one of the main male characters in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), utters when referring to the novel’s heroine, Tess Durbeyfield. As posited by numerous scholars, Thomas Hardy depicts a young woman, who on the surface may share many peculiarities of the fallen woman stereotype, for she is raped and has a baby outside marriage, but he then subverts this portrayal with the use of multiple perspectives and contrary voices.

Many investigations have delved into the particularities of Tess’s atypical construction as a fallen woman. Moreover, scholars have also acknowledged the importance of shifting and contrary perspectives for the creation of an uncommon literary character in Hardy’s novel. Additionally, these studies tend to focus on the male characters and their role as seers and observers of Tess. Nevertheless, investigations of this nature seem to lack linguistic specificities. Therefore, given the importance of these two phenomena in character construction, the communication intends to analyse multiperspectivity and stereotype creation from a linguistic approach. Furthermore, the project advocates that the character-defining structures for describing Tess, which will depend on their mindstyles, will contribute to the creation of an atypical portrayal of the Victorian stereotype. The current paper will therefore analyse Alec’s mindstyle and conceptual similes when referring to Tess. The project advocates that due to their subjective and conceptualising nature conceptual similes will help understand the subjective choices and utterances of Alec d’Urberville.

The communication will then provide a model of analysis consisting in a taxonomy of three main groups of categories with the objective of visually displaying the images that the male character employs to describe Tess. It is expected that Alec’s construals of her will be determined by his characterisation as a traditional Victorian man. Results confirm that his comparisons, although scarce, contribute to the reinforcement of the Victorian fallen woman stereotype. Furthermore, the salience of traditional and negative qualities in Tess’s construals will demonstrate the influence of mindstyle and subjectivity in literary characterisations.

Preguntas y comentarios al autor/es

    • profile avatar

      Isabel Granda Rossi

      Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 19:17:05

      Dear Julia:
      Thank you for this very interesting contribution! It's interesting to observe that while Tess initially fits the fallen woman stereotype, Hardy subverts this through various perspectives. As seen, your study focuses on Alec's linguistic choices, aiming to understand how they reinforce traditional gender roles.
      How do you believe Alec d’Urberville's linguistic portrayal of Tess Durbeyfield contributes to or challenges traditional gender roles in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and what implications does this have for our understanding of character construction in Victorian literature?
      Again, congratulations Julia on your presentation!
      Isabel

      • profile avatar

        Julia López Narváez

        Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 19:42:35

        Dear Isabel, many thanks for your interesting comments.
        The somewhat traditional conceptualisation of Tess that we see in Alec’s perspective is one of the many images that we get from the multiple perspectives of the novel, as you also state. And this multiperspectivity seems key in Tess’s portrayal as an atypical fallen woman. Alec then contributes to the traditional view of the stereotype in his rather fixed salient features but also challenges it by using unexpected terms in his comparisons. Furthermore, this allows other voices to challenge and contrast Alec’s conceptualisations, contributing into the depiction of a multifaceted and rather movable depiction of a fallen woman.
        Best,
        Julia

        • profile avatar

          Isabel Granda Rossi

          Comentó el 18/03/2024 a las 16:10:52

          Thank you, Julia, for your answer!
          Best,
          Isabel

    • profile avatar

      Maria C. Bravo

      Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 10:21:51

      Julia, thank you for your interesting presentation.
      I don't know if you worked with the Spanish translation of the novel, or maybe both, English and Spanish. An aspect that comes to mind is Thomas Hardy's use of the Wessex county dialect, spoken by the character Tess. Her grammatical structures and phonological characteristics portray Tess's rural quality and her social evolution. Do you know if these features were also rendered into the Spanish translation? Dialectal features pose such a challenge for the translator. Thank you.

      • profile avatar

        Julia López Narváez

        Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 10:36:21

        Hi Maria. Thank you very much for your pertinent question.
        I am also interested in the translation of linguistic variation, and I carried out some research regarding all the Spanish translations of the novel (I published some articles in this regard, in case you are interested). Tess has a linguistic duality, for she uses both the Wessex dialect and standard English, depending on her interlocutor. And this duality is essential in her progression throughout the novel, as you comment. Nevertheless, translators tend to neutralise the fictional dialect that Hardy created and thus, this evolution and key characteristic of the protagonist is quite mitigated in the target text.
        Thank you again for your comment.
        Best,
        Julia

        • profile avatar

          Maria C. Bravo

          Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 12:49:24

          Thank you, Miriam. I am not surprised that translators "tend to neutralise the ficional dialect" as you stated. I would be very interested in reading your articles regarding the Spanish translations. Are they available to download or should I send you my email? Just in case, it is: cbravo@ualg.pt
          Thanks for your reply.
          Maria

          • profile avatar

            Julia López Narváez

            Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 13:42:21

            Hi Maria. The articles are in open access so you can download them. Thank you for your reply.
            Julia

    • profile avatar

      Manuela Francia

      Comentó el 14/03/2024 a las 19:46:47

      Hi Julia,
      I really enjoyed your presentation. I have found it highly intriguing and stimulating. In Thomas Hardy's novel "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," the protagonist undergoes a transformation from a pure woman to a victim of sexual abuse, then to a morally compromised individual, and ultimately becomes someone who is guilty of murder.
      Who do you believe would be the main narrator discussing the concept of the "fallen woman," beyond just focusing on Victorian society?
      Furthermore, I would want to ask whether you believe that in contemporary culture, there is more safeguarding granted to individuals commonly referred to as "fallen women".
      Best,
      Manuela

      • profile avatar

        Julia López Narváez

        Comentó el 15/03/2024 a las 10:06:37

        Dear Manuela. Thank you very much for your comments.
        I’ll try to answer to your questions as best as possible. Although the fallen woman stereotype became very popular in the Victorian era, it had emerged many centuries prior to that (we can even trace back its origin with Eve). But Victorian England seemed to perpetuate this label by creating institutions and legal acts, such as the Contagious Disease Act, which further emphasised the existence of fallen women. And Tess’s sexual abuse, her transformation into somewhat a pariah and her murdering Alec fit into the category of the fallen woman, those women who were not considered “morally fit” and behaved “unexpectedly and undesirably”. At the end of the 19th century England, different social and literary movements contested the rigid and fixed female images and stereotypes. Maybe that is why the stereotype of the fallen woman ceased to appear after this period.
        Best,
        Julia

    • profile avatar

      Rosalía Villa Jiménez

      Comentó el 14/03/2024 a las 09:32:45

      Dear Julia, first and foremost I would like to congratulate on such an interesting presentation about equally such an appealing and controversial topic.
      It would strike me that Hardy did not receive harsh criticism for the portrayal of Tess; she is depicted as a fallen woman, in this way displaying a dark side yet she is able to play a more active role than conventionally established for victorian women.
      However, she took Alec's life away. Was this crime cloaked under the label "Fallen Woman"? In orther words, would being a fallen woman serve somehow to redeem Tess before victorian justice? How did the target audience understand this part of the story?
      One final question that comes to my mind, what led T. Hardy to speak overtly about the fallen woman?

      I look forward to your reply,
      Best, Rosalía

      • profile avatar

        Julia López Narváez

        Comentó el 14/03/2024 a las 10:47:36

        Dear Rosalía, thank you very much for your comments. They are very interesting and thought-provoking.
        The novel had a very mixed reception, for it presented a fallen woman with innocent and pure traits. For this reason, Hardy's novel received very harsh criticism (it was in fact censored). The protagonist shares many attributes with the fallen woman, such as being raped, giving birth to a baby (outside wedlock) and also, as you point out, being a murderess.
        In relation to your question of redemption, Tess follows the "traditional" path of the stereotype, since she is killed for her acts. Nevertheless, due to the compassionate and sympathetic points of view in the novel, Hardy seems to reinforce the innocence of Tess and the injustice she has endured.
        And regarding your last questions, I am afraid I do not have an answer. He was aware of the debates of the time regarding women, such as the New Woman movement, and these indeed influenced him. It could also be because he was said to be a quite pessimistic person and was against the Victorian double-standards.
        I hope I answered to all of your questions. Thank you very much.
        Best,
        Julia


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