“…He has got this wonderful intimate relationship with Tryphena and then he discovers he is committing
incest, he was shocked...you know that could be really traumatic…”

-Rosemarie Morgan (in an interview just after the

Keynote Lecture)

Professor Rosemarie Morgan’s remarkable and fascinating lecture on “Pathways of the Past: Visual
Imprinting, Episodic Memory, and Hardy’s Wonder of Women” was uniformly thought provoking as well
as engaging. She primarily focused on the significance of Tryphena in Thomas Hardy’s life, both as a
human being and as an artist. She, in relation to him was his niece but emotionally, psychologically and
sexually a much more seminal influence on his life, as the implied indication of the sentence goes.
Beginning with a conceptual note on memory formation, epigenetics and Hardy’s interest in folklore,
Professor Morgan went on to talk about how Tryphena figured in diverse ways in the portrayal of the

female protagonists in his fiction, particularly in the depiction of Sue and Tess. His disguised
autobiography, however, mentions every woman he had an admiration or passion for throughout his
life, with the distinct omission of Tryphena, presumably from a sense of guilt and trauma (he discovered
only later that she was his niece, a sexual relationship within such relations being prohibited by the
Bible) but also due to the private person that he was. This derelict and unfulfilled relationship in a way is
reflected in the very fundamental essence of most of his novels which are characterized by the tragic
fate of the protagonists journeying through the Hardyan world of “chancefulness”, and an unnamed but
looming Providence encapsulating their existence. There is a “reincarnation of past experiences in
literary form”, as Professor Morgan infers. However, the re-embodiment of Tryphena in his fictional
heroines is “subjectively distorted”, pertaining to the mechanism of episodic memory and
counterfactual thinking, contributing to a reconstruction of his narrative harvest.
Hence what remains the most intriguing take away from the talk is the interdisciplinary field of thought
that positions itself between the scientific disciplines like Neurology, Biology, Genetics and Psychology
and something as clearly from the Humanities as the Victorian novel. However, in a post-talk interview,
when asked what in a novel by Hardy, aids such a magnificent interdisciplinary approach, Prof. Morgan
remarks that it is the Victorian obsession with science that set her thinking. She even goes on to say in
jest that Hardy often copied verbatim, the scientific articles he read for the morning news at breakfast in
novels like The Return of the Native. Interestingly she remarks, that nothing can be purely original and it
was clear that Hardy was borrowing from the popular thoughts of his days and his memory of Tryphena.
This remark echoes with what Barthes would later call the “The Death of the Author” that puts Hardy in
the role of merely a scripter. Yet even as a scripter, Hardy is given extreme authority over the text. His
position as an author rules supreme and the texts appear to be merely various narrative reconstructions
of his life experiences.. Hardy comes across as the author of Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, he
repeatedly goes back to change the ending of a pre-existing central narrative, while often succumbing to

the limitations imposed by the serial publishers. The most interesting aspect, however, remains the
groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach to the work.

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