4.2 Analysing Texts

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You will, of course, be familiar with analysis from your earlier work but now you need to develop those skills even further by using analysis not just for evidence but to generate and develop ideas for your Ph.D. thesis that emanate from your analysis.

Here is an analysed example with ideas that might be gained from it to give you some ideas from Thomas Hardy’s novel of 1887, The Woodlanders. The passage comes from quite early in the novel, where Hardy is still establishing his characters. Grace Melbury and her father are the woodlanders of Hardy’s novel of that title, yet when they walk out of their cottage and enter the woods they do not see what Hardy sees in his account of their journey:

"They went noiselessly over mats of starry moss, rustled through interspersed tracts of leaves, skirted trunks with spreading roots whose mossed rinds made them like hands wearing green gloves, elbowed old elms and ashes with great forks in which stood pools of water that overflowed on rainy days and ran down their stems in green cascades. On older trees still than these huge lobes of fungi grew like lungs. Here, as everywhere, the Unfulfilled Intention, which makes life what it is, was as obvious as it could be among the depraved crowds of a city slum. The leaf was deformed, the curve was crippled, the taper was interrupted; the lichen ate the vigour of the stalk, and the ivy slowly strangled to death the promising sapling"

Hardy’s woodland is readily apprehended, the progress of the characters towards the auction is almost mundane as a fact. And yet there is a huge and overpowering strangeness in the ‘familiar’ environment, which its ordinariness serves only to enhance. This duplicity is further emphasised by the human allusions, which present anthropomorphism in reverse. Indeed, everything is here in reverse, or perverse, in its presentation. As in the corrupt ‘Eden’ which he creates for Tess to traverse, Hardy begins an apparently idyllic description, only to twist the reader’s perceptions from delight to horror. Significantly, he compares the scene with a ‘depraved slum’; nature is not the divine pastoral idyll presented by the aesthetes. Indeed, his reference to this is the more pertinent because of the then current picture being drawn by certain writers for the benefit of, for the first time in history, a purely urban readership, of a countryside little short of heavenly.

"You can see from this brief example that ideas that contribute towards the building of a thesis can come directly from analysis of the text. The comments on the extract are here being used to develop an analysis of nature and the novel so that the text itself is providing not just evidentiary support but actual ideas which contribute towards the thesis. This is how you should use analysis in a thesis, try always to develop what is within the text so that it becomes a personal reflection that contributes towards your overall thesis. Remember that you are writing very differently now, always trying to make a connective between what is in your texts and what you are stating as an original perspective."

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