Oscar Wilde was popular in his own lifetime, especially as an author of comic plays. But he is also now seen as one of the most important figures in the development of modern gay literature and modern gay liberation, not only because of works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray but also because of the notorious trials that sent him to prison (and an early death) for behavior considered unacceptable in his own era. The present volume examines the whole range of Wilde’s work, from the light-hearted to the tragically serious, and explores Wilde and his writings in their biographical, historical, cultural, and literary contexts.
The chapters here discuss critical views presented by a variety of scholars as well as original archival research by the volume’s authors. Scholars have regularly struggled with the significance of his literary production versus Wilde’s fascinating biography and role in shaping the cultural history of his time, as well as identities for the modern world. With this in mind, the authors for this volume of Critical Insights balance studies of Wilde’s particular texts with his important place in the western civilization of his time and of the century (and more) following.
The volume starts out with an introductory essay by Editor Frederick S. Roden, followed by a biographical essay by Kimberly J. Stern that introduces readers to Wilde’s early life and work. This is followed by four Critical Context essays:
- “Wilde’s World,” Anne Anderson
- “Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw,” Colin Cavendish-Jones
- “‘Myriad Meanings’: Oscar Wilde’s Critical Afterlives,” Benjamin Hudson
- “Queer Wilde,” Nikolai Endres
Next comes the Critical Readings section of this book, which contains the following essays:
- “Imagining Greatness: The Staging of Oscar Wilde in America,” Annette M. Magid
- “‘His Warmest Admirers’: Oscar Wilde and His Interactions with Women,” Eleanor Fitzsimons
- “Sex, Love, and the Nineteenth Century: The Case of Lady Windermere,” Melissa Knox-Raab
- “Wilde’s Social Comedies and the Well-Made Play,” Anne Varty
- “The Importance of Artifice: Ritual and Language Play in The Importance of Being Earnest,” Ruth Robbins
- “Beyond the Romantic Imagination: Oscar Wilde’s Aesthetics,” Julie-Ann Robson
- “‘I Believe in Willie Hughes’: The Portrait of Mr W. H.,” Sharon Bickle and Marie Heneghan
- “The Importance of Being Green: Pen, Pencil and Poison as a Study in Close Reading and Color De-coding,” Chris Foss
- “‘Two Men of Note’: Oscar Wilde and Sherlock Holmes,” Rebecca Nesvet
- “Oscar Wilde’s Mysticism in De Profundis,” Oswaldo Gallo-Serratos
- “Transcending the Trauma: Theatrical Interventions in the Wilde Trials,” Todd Barry
In the final section, Resources, easy-to-follow lists are provided to help guide the reader through important dates and moments in the author’s life. A selection of further reading is then provided. Each essay in Critical Insights: Oscar Wilde includes a list of Works Cited and detailed endnotes. Also included in this volume is a Bibliography, biographies of the Editor and Contributors, and alphabetical Index as well as Chronology of Oscar Wilde’s Life and Work by Oscar Wilde.
The Critical Insights Series distills the best of both classic and current literary criticism of the world’s most studies literature. Edited and written by some of academia’s most distinguished literary scholars, Critical Insights: Oscar Wilde provides authoritative, in-depth scholarship that students and researchers will rely on for years. This volume is destined to become a valuable purchase for all.