The Compromised chronotope of Christminster: Hardy and Hopkins’s medieval Oxford


Centered on the unique chronotope of Oxford, this essay traces the ways Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy invoke and compromise our ability to relate past to present. In the sonnet ‘Duns Scotus’s Oxford’ and the novel Jude the Obscure, Hopkins and Hardy respectively present the city of Oxford as a central confluence of medieval and early modern pasts with a Victorian present. To further link past and present, the poet and novelist both enter into the medieval conceit of the wind, wherein a lover gains intimacy with the beloved through mutually shared breath, but they do so for cross-purposes. Whereas a connection to the past is preserved in Hopkins’s sonnet by a theological understanding of the ether, any such connection is a dangerous illusion in Hardy’s novel. Yet, even with this divergence, Hardy, like Hopkins, still leads the reader into a shared sacramental intimacy suggested through medieval influences on the novel.

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  1. 1.

    All citations of Jude the Obscure refer to Hardy ([1895] 1999).

  2. 2.

    All citations of the sonnet refer to Hopkins (1986, 142).

  3. 3.

    See note in Benson (1987, 1052, V.671–9).

  4. 4.

    See Griffin (1929, 68).

  5. 5.

    The quote is from Thomas Carew’s poetic paraphrase (1640, 17).


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Comments by Laura Otis and two anonymous reviewers were integral in improving an earlier version of this paper.

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Adamson, C. The Compromised chronotope of Christminster: Hardy and Hopkins’s medieval Oxford. Postmedieval 9, 72–87 (2018).

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