||Being a controversial figure in the late Victorian period, Oscar Wilde claims that art should not be about morality and utility, nor should it conform to any authority. Wilde’s art for art’s sake is thus self-defined as that all arts are useless and beauty means only beauty. However, if art is really useless and meaningless, how do we locate Wilde’s literary significance in his art for art’s sake? While many modern scholars who study Wilde’s aesthetics contend that Wilde is an asocial and apolitical artist, this thesis attempts to locate his social and political significance by retrieving the liberal spirit in the aesthetic movement of the Victorian period. In other words, this thesis will go back to the Victorian liberal culture itself and joins in the academic studies, as presented by Linda Dowling and David Thomas, to re-contextualize and re-examine Wilde’s aesthetics in a liberal sense.|
While, in this aesthetic movement, John Ruskin proposes that art should be about divine moral order and educational in terms of ethics and Walter Pater contends that art is about individual perception of beauty and a cultivation of sensational experience, this thesis detects that Wilde realizes the intrinsic predicaments in the movement and therefore takes a different path to carry out genuine liberal spirit. His aesthetic claims of amorality, autility, and anti-authority thus become Wildean liberal aesthetics to resist the moral/normal claim of aesthetic social function. In this new-historicist framework, I will read Wilde’s aesthetics as a cultural sign and explore its meanings along with his literary representations.
Chapter two, “Useless Art as Liberating Art,” will focus on the issue of amorality and autility as constructed against the backdrop of Victorian evangelicalism and capitalism. Three of Wilde’s literary representations will be utilized to exemplify his critical stance against this cultural silhouette. Chapter three, “A Queer Body in Aesthetics,” will tackle the issue of anti-authority, set in Victorian fledgling socialism and presented in Wilde’s critical writings and literary works. I will argue that Wilde’s resistant aesthetics consists in his queer rewriting of the bourgeois body and his challenge against the normal in contrast to the social control and public opinion in the Victorian England. Three of Wilde’s literary works will also be scrutinized in detail to elucidate Wilde’s queering attempt. The concluding chapter will integrate the previous main points and render a more complete Wilde on the basis of his aesthetics, sexuality, and social involvement. I will conclude that Wildean liberal aesthetics could be a potential politics of resistance which exerts its anti-essentialist perspective to confound a coerced Victorian logocentrism, and in this scenario, Wilde is not only a martyr of social sub/counter-culture but also a promoter of artistic and intellectual freedom.
Austin, J. L.. How to Do Things with Words. Ed. J. O.
Urmson and Maria Sbisa. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1975. Print.
Buttrick, George Arthur, et al. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. 5 Vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 1990. Vol. 4. Print.
Bristow, Joseph, ed. Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 2008. Print.
---. “A Complex Multiform Creature: Wilde’s Sexual Identities.” Raby, The Cambridge Companion, 195-218.
Barris, Jeremy. “Oscar Wilde’s Artificiality and the Logic of Genuine Pluralism.” Contemporary Justice Review 8.2 (June 2005): 193-209. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 November 2010.
Butler, Judith. “Critically Queer.” Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. London: Routledge, 1993. 223-242. Print.
Beaumont, Matthew. “Reinterpreting Oscar Wilde’s Concept of Utopia: ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism.’” Utopian Studies 15. 1 (2004): 13-29. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 February 2011.
Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductions.” Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Fontana Press, 1992. 211-244. Print.
Buckler, William E, ed. Prose of the Victorian Period. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. Print.
Cockshut, A. O. J. “Victorian Thought.” Pollard, The Victorians, 1-24.
Cohen, Ed. “Writing Gone Wilde: Homoerotic Desire in the Closet of Representation.” PMLA 102. 5 (October 1987): 801-13. JSTOR. Web. 17 August 2010.
Christ, Carol T., and Catherine Robson. “The Victorian Age: An Introduction.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2006. 979-1001. Print.
Cohen, Philip Kent. The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1978. Print.
Calloway, Stephen and David Colvin. The Exquisite Life of Oscar Wilde. London: Orion Media, 1997. Print
Carlyle, Thomas. “Gospel of Mammonism.” Buckler, Prose of the Victorian Period 135-39.
Dowling, Linda. Vulgarization of Art: The Victorians and Aesthetic Democracy. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1996. Print.
Douglas, Mary and Baron Isherwood. “The Use of Goods.” The World of Goods. London: Routledge, 1979. 36-66. Print.
Dellamora, Richard. “Productive Decadence: ‘The Queer Comradeship of Outlawed Thought’: Vernon Lee, Max Nordau, and Oscar Wilde.” New Literary History 35.4 (Autumn, 2004): 529-546. JSTOR. Web. 17 November 2010.
Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. Print.
Gagnier, Regenia. “Wilde and the Victorians.” Raby, The Cambridge Companion, 18-33.
Fraser, Hilary. Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge UP, 1986. Print.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Trans. Robert Hurley. 2 Vols. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Vol. 1. Print.
Halperin, David. “The Queer Politics of Michel Foucault.” Saint = Foucault: Toward a Gay Hagiography. Cambridge: Oxford UP, 1995. 15-125. Print.
Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Trans. Thomas Burger. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989. Print.
Holland, Merlin, ed. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.
Huang, Yutin. From Transgression to Transcendence: A Study on Oscar Wilde’s Development of Aesthetics. MA Thesis. National Cheng-Kung U, 2003. National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations in Taiwan. Web. 6 March 2011.
Joyce, Simon. “Sexual Politics and the Aesthetics of Crime: Oscar Wilde in the Nineties.” ELH 69.2 (Summer, 2002): 501-23. JSTOR. Web. 17 November 2010.
Kohl, Norbert. “Authority and Autonomy: ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism.’” Oscar Wilde: The Works of a Conformist Rebel. Trans. David Henry Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989. 123-37. Print.
Kaye, Richard. “Oscar Wilde and the Politics of Posthumous Sainthood.” Bristow, Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture, 110-132.
Marcovitch, Heather. “The Princess, Persona, and Subjective Desire: A Reading of Oscar Wilde’s Salome.” Papers on Language and Literature 40. 1 (winter 2004): 88-101. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 February 2011.
Mill, John Stuart. Autobiography. Buckler, Prose of the Victorian Period 288-312.
---. On Liberty. Buckler, Prose of the Victorian Period, 251-287.
Maccormack, Jerusha. “Wilde’s Fiction(s).” Raby, The Cambridge Companion, 96-117.
Mason, Stuart. Oscar Wilde Art and Morality: A Record of the Discussion which Followed the Publication of “Dorian Gray.” New York: Haskell House P0ublishers, 1971. Print.
Novak, Daniel. “Sexuality in the Age of Technology Reproducibility.” Bristow, Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture, 63-95.
Pollard, Arthur, ed. The Victorians. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1987. Print.
Pater, Walter. The Renaissance. Buckler, Prose of the Victorian Period, 545-52.
Ruskin, John. Lectures on Art. New York: Allworth Press, 1996. Print.
Raby, Peter, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.
---. Oscar Wilde. New York: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.
Sinfield, Alan. The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde, and the Queer Movement. London: Cassel, 1994. Print.
Sedgwick, Eve. “Affect and Queer Performativity.” Sex Center of National Central University, Taiwan. Lecture. 3 October 1998.
Sussman, Herbert. “Criticism as Art: Form in Oscar Wilde’s Critical Writings.” Studies in Philology 70. 1 (January 1973): 108-122. JSTOR. Web. 17 August 2010.
Thomas, Wayne David. Cultivating Victorians: Liberal Culture and the Aesthetic. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP, 2004. Print.
Townsend, Julie. “Staking Salome: The Literary Forefathers and Choreographic Daughters of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Hysterical and Perverted Creature.’” Bristow, Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture, 154-79.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Unwin University Books, 1930. Print.
Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: The Free Press, 1999. Print.
---. Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books, 2005. Print.
Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. New York: Pearson/ Longman, 2007. Print.
---. An Ideal Husband. The Plays of Oscar Wilde. Ed. Anne Varty, and Royal Holloway. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2000. 220-79. Print.
---. “The Critic as Artist.” Holland, The Complete Works, 1108-55.
---. “The Happy Prince.” Holland, The Complete Works, 271-77.
---. “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.” Holland, The Complete Works, 302-50.
---. “The Soul of Man under Socialism.” Holland, The Complete Works, 1174-97.
---. “The Young King.” Holland, The Complete Works, 213-22.
---. “Panthea.” Holland, The Complete Works, 830-34.
---. Salome. The Plays of Oscar Wilde. Ed. Anne Varty, and Royal Holloway. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2000. 133-62. Print.