University has come under fire after slapping Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Jude The Obscure with a trigger warning because it could ‘upset’ students with its adult themes
- Students at the University of Exeter have been warned about Thomas Hardy’s novel
- He said that “Jude The Obscure contains subjects that students might find upsetting”
A university has been criticized for issuing a ‘trigger warning’ for Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude The Obscure.
English literature students studying a module called Sex, Scandal And Sensation In Victorian Literature at the University of Exeter have been warned that Hardy’s 1895 novel has the potential to be “shattering” because of its adult themes.
The warning, a copy of which was obtained by the MoS under freedom of information laws, states: “Jude The Obscure contains subject matter which students may find upsetting, including sexual coercion, murder and suicide .”
But last night Oscar-winning playwright Julian Fellowes said: ‘The difficulty with trigger warnings is that they presuppose the student body is emotionally immature. I prefer to believe that anyone qualified to study at a university is mature enough to explore and evaluate works of great literature on their own.
Some Victorian critics took offense to Hardy’s depiction of sex, marriage, and the Church. One called the novel “Obscene Jude”, while the Bishop of Wakefield burned his copy.
The disclaimer said “Jude The Obscure contains subject matter that students may find upsetting”
Hardy’s novel is one of two works on the trail that have their own specific warning.
Students are also warned that the 1893 anonymous pornographic novel Teleny, also known as The Reverse of the Medal, contains: “graphic depictions of sex, including rape, incest, and other subjects that students may find overwhelming”.
Other works on the module, which include Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and The Women in White by Wilkie Collins, are covered by a general disclaimer that applies throughout the module and which states: “Please be advised that some elements of this module may be upsetting, including depictions of graphic violence and explicit sex.
But it’s the caveat applied to Hardy’s Obscure Jude that raised eyebrows.
The book, which was published in 1895 and is the author’s last completed novel, tells the story of Jude Fawley, an idealistic working-class stonemason who dreams of becoming a scholar.
Fawley’s dreams of a new life are hampered, however, by his attraction to two very different women.
They are the scheming and deceitful Arabella Donn, whom he marries twice, and his freethinking cousin Sue Bridehead, with whom he lives out of wedlock.
Jude has children with both women, but his son with Arabella, nicknamed Little Father Time, ends up killing himself and his two step-siblings.
Students at the University of Exeter have been warned about Thomas Hardy’s novel
Mark Chutter, academic director of the Thomas Hardy Society, said the University of Exeter had been naïve to enforce the warning.
He said Hardy had been ‘hurt’ by the criticism surrounding the work, adding: ‘He loved a paradox, so I understand the need to protect students at all costs, but it shouldn’t undermine or harm their love for literature or dissuade them. reading this classic.’
A University of Exeter spokesperson said: “The University of Exeter is providing the information so that students are aware that Hardy’s novel Jude the Dark contains subject matter which they may find upsetting, including sexual coercion, murder and suicide.”