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Aestheticism in the Writing of Oscar Wilde

Powerful Essays
First published as pop-culture in Lippincott's Magazine, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray sparked immediate controversy with its Victorian critics (Introduction xvi-xviii). The Victorian Era, named so for the reign of British Queen Victoria, was tantamount to exacting moral principles – media, households and government were consumed by pious platitudes. During this time, anything suggestive of sex – literal or allegorical – was stringently suppressed; women were to be covered up to the chin, out to the hands, and down to the ankles, likewise, piano and table legs were covered to the floor. Victorian literature possessed an ability to inculcate a sense of religious and social responsibility in its reader; the conventional Victorian novel most commonly embodied a “social reality” (“The Victorian Age”) – accepted social tenets of a community – and the manner of search and discovery the characters use to find and establish their places within the set “reality” (“The Victorian Age”). Wilde, and his aesthete contemporaries, challenged the mainstream didactic literature of their time with an, as Walter Pater put it, “art for [art's] sake” (276) attitude. Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is a whelming campaign against the Victorian tenor; through vivid scenery and cunning language, Wilde argues not only the ability of art to consist of purely aesthetic qualities but the inability for art to consist of anything other than beauty.

First published in response to the negative criticism surrounding the Lippincott's Magazine 1890 publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde established a sequence of epigrams illustrating his manifest aestheticism (in footnotes 3). Later used as the Preface of the 1891 publication, ...

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Introduction. Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. xv-xxv. Print. Longman Cultural Edition.

Pater, Walter. "Conclusion" to The Renaissance." 1893. Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 273-76. Print. Longman Cultural Edition.

"The Victorian Age." Norton Topics Online. Ed. Carol T. Christ and Kelly Hurley. W. W. Norton and Company, 2010 - 2011. Web. 25 Mar. 2011.

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"Victorian Reactions." Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Andrew Elfenbein. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 239-69. Print. Longman Cultural Edition.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print. Longman Cultural Edition.
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