Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


English and American Lit


Barbara Zimbalist


Context is vital to understanding the circumstances and the society that produced Thomas Hardy’s novel. As such, I will be reviewing the era through canonically established authors, the literary trope that would condemn women and firmly entrench itself in England’s national identity, and political movements guided by the law of Victorian England. This will showcase the hurdles of basic women’s rights that would continue throughout the reign of Queen Victoria, as well as the dangers that would be faced in the public and domestic spheres, endangering a woman’s very life. When tied together W.T. Stead’s expose in the Pall Mall Gazette, there are plenty of double standards to critique and shed insight on. Understanding these circumstances makes it all the more poignant to see such a full-hearted defense from Hardy, and the endurance of a character whose narrative has persisted for well over a century. Looking ahead, Tess of the D’Urbervilles would see many adaptations, but perhaps the most notable is the 1970s film adaptation entitled Tess. The film is a product of a masterclass director but is easily a controversial product when considering director Roman Polanski’s own past. Weaving art in conjunction with the artist is easily a cornerstone of literary analysis, though popular wisdom often suggests a separation of the two. In the spirit of the former, I wanted to examine the controversy surrounding Polanski’s life, primarily through his assault of an underaged Samantha Geimer, which would directly influence the logistics of making the film and almost act in defiance of the film’s message. Tess’s story resonates today because there are survivors of sexual assault, in a social environment that has become riddled with complications as one considers sexual extortion, the rapid availability of pornographic content fueling unrealistic and sometimes dangerous desires in exploring sexuality, the magnification of issues due to social media and the destructive nature of the general public’s impulsive reactions. This is why I chose to examine two shows produced in the past decade that connect thematically to Hardy and his message to examine modern-day survivor narratives and to showcase that Tess remains as relevant as ever as a figure who can inform and empower audiences. In this vein, I will be analyzing a procedural drama loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy in Broadchurch, as well a survivor story based on the personal lived experience of Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You, sharing expressions of support and idealizations of revenge that may both work towards healing for victims of sexual abuse.




Recieved from ProQuest

File Size

85 p.

File Format


Rights Holder

Jesse C Marin