Last weekend I attended a one day course at the Liverpool University Continuing Education Department. I have taken part in many courses here before and I enjoy the discussion and variety of subjects that they offer. This one was called The Hour for Loving, concentrating on whether there is a right time for love, using the works of Shakespeare, Austen and Hardy among others to explore this.
Looking at Middlemarch by George Eliot, the timing is wrong for Dorothea and Lydgate. The expectation is there but she is already married. When her husband dies Lydgate has married. Their regard for each other is subtle but prompts the reader to ask 'What if...?'
In Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope her love follows a defined path but there is a lack of fore knowledge in the narrative and it claims that men do not plan their future marriages, it just happens.
We then concentrated on Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and how there is a sense of doom throughout the novel, brought about by the narrator who tells the story in retrospect and alludes constantly to the tragedies to come. It is as if Hardy has a ghost plot that runs alongside the actual plot, a story of what may have happened had the timing been right. Hardy's characters have a pre-written destiny which is off set by circumstances, a decision wrongly made, that disables what should have happened. Had Angel Clare asked Tess to dance that very first meeting, everything might have been different. Had the letter not gone underneath the carpet by mistake...etc.etc.
We then went further back in time, to the time of Shakespeare and some of his sonnets (XII, CVI and CXVI). When life expectancies were short we can see references to the immediacy of the timing, when death can come at any moment, so the time is now. If not the death of life, then the death of beauty, although some sonnets tell us that love cannot be confined by time or death, proving that the issue of life expectancy was a prominent issue.
We examined some more characters from Trollope, and also the unrequited love in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, before spending some time discussing Jane Austens characters, particularly in Persuasion, but nearly all of her heroines have to wait some time before getting together with their true loves, usually changing a little or growing up and accepting those changes.
Obviously this is a very condensed account of everything that came up during the day. There were no set texts for the course because of the wide nature of the subject, and I came away wanting to read some of the books that I hadn't encountered. I got most from the texts that I was familiar with though, Tess, Middlemarch, and I've seen films of Persuasion and The Age of Innocence. It was an enjoyable day and a nice way to spend my day off. Anything that encourages listening and talking about books.
This course counts for #5 of the 2009 mini challenges, to attend a book event.