Who is Oscar (Wild)e?

Oscar Wilde was an Irish author and poet best known for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). He lived in Europe in the late 1800s and was a known spokesperson for the Aestheticism movement. The central idea of this movement was that art exists for the sake of its beauty alone, without the need to communicate some hidden or deeper meaning to audiences. Throughout his lifetime, he was celebrated in some circles and satirized in others. He was criticized in part for his stance on Aestheticism but mainly because of his sexuality and the ways in which his art would reflect his lifestyle. Of course, this was an unjust and bigoted judgment to make but it, unfortunately, was the established norm in Europe at the time. He was imprisoned for two years under charges of indecency and/or sodomy which were obviously directly related to his sexuality. 

After reading a bit of his work and learning more about his life, I would not call Oscar Wilde’s writing very particularly “wild” but it is clear that for the time he was living in, his lifestyle would be considered “wild.” It seems like this discussion could use a little more separation between the work and the artist. This is something that Oscar Wilde believed in himself. While searching for more information about the controversies surrounding Wilde, I stumbled across some of his thoughts about criticism itself. In The Critic As Artist, an essay by Oscar Wilde, he claims that “a critic should be taught to criticize a work of art without making any reference to the personality of the author.” If the literary critics (and society in general) of his time shared this viewpoint, the way history remembers Oscar Wilde and his works would be very different. I can’t say that is a view that I 100% agree with because we have no way of knowing how much overlap exists at any given moment between an artist’s personality and the creation of their art. However, it is possible that we may overestimate that overlap every now and then, especially when there is such an apparent difference between an artist’s lived experience and the style of some of their art.

– Tsion Teffera


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2 Responses to Who is Oscar (Wild)e?

  1. kia326

    I love how you took a different approach in your analysis and decided to separate Oscar Wilde’s personal life from his writing when explaining his wildness. However, I think you could’ve expanded on the fact that in today’s society his work is not criticized so heavily as it was in the 19th century because homosexuality is legal now and way more socially acceptable than it was in the past. How would certain societal standards affect the perception of wildness around someone’s lifestyle?

  2. ham2642

    This is an unexpected view point on Wilde but I can see what you are getting at. At the time his work could have been seen as wild now it is more normalized therefore making his work a bit less prominent in relation to its wild nature. Although a good point, you have to put yourself in the authors shoes, because he wasn’t from out time unfortunately, so in my eyes hes wild not because of what he wrote but the risks he took to put what he believed in out in the world. Even if now homosexuality is more normal, back then Wilde sacrificed his everything because he did not want to hide his thoughts.

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