Linda Shires, Chair, English/Stern CollegeDr. Linda M. Shires, David and Ruth Gottesman Professor and chair of the English department at Stern College for Women, offered a keynote address for the International Thomas Hardy Society Conference and Festival, which ran from July 14-21, 2018, in Dorchester, England. (The conference was the 50th anniversary of the Society.)

The Academic Director of the Thomas Hardy Society invited Dr. Shires to lecture on Hardy’s poems rather than his novels, since two of her most recently published essays and her 2011 lecture at Yale University, “Image and Text in Wessex Poems,” dealt with his poetry. Her lecture, entitled “Hardy’s Poems and his Reader: The Power of Unmaking,” will be published in The Thomas Hardy Journal.

“Because many of Hardy’s poems illuminate how the past enters present consciousness and how the present reaches for but never truly recovers a past, the lecture opened on a personal note,” she explained. “Fifty years ago, in high school, I bought Selected Poetry of Thomas Hardy, with an introduction by John Crowe Ransom. The poem I puzzled over and remembered most was ‘The Convergence of the Twain: Lines on the Loss of the Titanic.’ I therefore began the lecture by revisiting a poem that inaugurated a teenager’s interest in Hardy’s poetry and held it for half a century.” As she noted in her presentation, “Perhaps, even then, I vaguely sensed that part of the power of Hardy’s poetry lay in collisions: physical, mental, and emotional. This lecture, treating seven of Hardy’s finest, examined why Hardy’s poems last, the ethics that drive them and how they invite us specifically to think, laugh, remember and witness.”

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