We’d like to issue an invitation to all our colleagues
who have a professional interest in teaching or
writing about Thomas Hardy.
We are a group made up of literary scholars and
psychologists (Joe Carroll, Jon Gottschall, John
Johnson, and Dan Kruger), and we are conducting a
web-based survey about Hardy’s novel The Mayor of
Casterbridge. We are aiming at obtaining a census of
expert opinion about the depiction of characters in
this particular novel.
This is the location of the survey:
All participation is strictly anonymous. We shall
have no record of the name or address of any scholar
filling out a questionnaire.
We are asking respondents to fill out questionnaires
on six characters in the novel: Henchard, Susan,
Newson, Lucetta, Elizabeth-Jane, and Farfrae. The
questionnaire for each character takes only a couple
of minutes to fill out. Filling out questionnaires on
all six characters should take less than a quarter of
The questionnaire is meant to address important
questions in both literary study and in
psychology—questions about motives and personality,
about the agonistic status of the characters
(protagonists and antagonists), and about the
responses of readers to the characters. The questions
about motives and personality employ categories that
psychologists have used to describe motives and
personality traits in everyday life.
In one phase of this project, we extracted all the
explicit personality attributions from this novel and
rated them in accordance with the Five Factor
personality system. We shall compare the results of
this lexical analysis with the results from the
personality portion of our questionnaire.
We shall also compare the results of this survey of
The Mayor of Casterbridge with the results from
another survey in which we received questionnaire
responses from 1,700 participants filling out
questionnaires on nearly six hundred characters from
British novels of the nineteenth century. The survey
of six hundred characters enables us to identify
standard features in the novels of the period, and the
results from the questionnaire on The Mayor of
Casterbridge will enable us to compare these standard
features with those in The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Our closing date for accepting questionnaires is
September 21, 2005. We shall publish our findings,
and we shall be happy to share the findings, on
request, with anyone who is interested. Once we have
collected and analyzed the data from the census, we
shall post a notice on the Hardy Society Listserve,
announcing that we are ready to share the results.
Thanks in advance for your help with this
Jonathan Gottschall et al.