The Homosexual Legacy of Oscar Wilde

Powerful Essays
On October 16, 1854, the eccentric and fervently revered Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. Wilde’s work as a dramatist, novelist, and poet was marked by controversial wit, and was often the subject of moral outrage in Europe. Much of his writing reflected his own life and his protest against societal norms happening during the nineteenth century. His only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was greatly attacked for having themes of homoeroticism, and was part of the history that actualized his notoriety. However, the questions posed by his work and his life, are still relevant now as they were a hundred years ago (Ellmann, xvii). Wilde’s interests were greatly influenced by the work of his parents during his upbringing. His father, Sir William Wilde, worked as Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon, and published multiple books on archaeology and folklore (“Oscar Wilde,” Encyclopedia Britannica). Wilde’s mother, Jane Francesca Agnes, was a gifted poet who wrote mostly myth and folklore. Her work was often published under the pseudonym, Speranza (“Oscar Wilde,” Encyclopedia Britannica). With two strong literary and professional role models, Wilde went on to study at Trinity College in Dublin (1871-74), and Magdalen College in Oxford (1874-78). He received a degree with honors, and established himself as a brilliant scholar, a poet, and a wit after receiving the Newdigate Prize (1878) for his long poem, Ravenna (“Oscar Wilde,” Encyclopedia Britannica). It was also during this time that Wilde began exploring his feelings of homosexuality. Wilde had several relationships with men that turned him into a target for blackmail. Unfortunately for Wilde, the Victorian Era was polluted with ideas of homosexual... ... middle of paper ... ...transcended, to lust (Shmoop Editorial Team). For both Wilde and Lord Henry, self-denial of temptation is a form of self-mutilation, the only cure for which is to acknowledge and yield (McKenna 125). This struggle between love and lust—between song and shadow—is constantly regnant in Oscar Wilde’s life, and its center is the journey of sexual self-discovery. Works Cited Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New York: Knopf, 1988. Print. Fuller, Sophie. "Construction of Musical Meaning." The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction. Aldershot, Hants, England: Burlington, VT, 2004. 171-96. Print. McKenna, Neil. The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde. New York: Basic, 2005. Print. "Oscar Wilde." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 6 Nov. 2013. Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900. Oscar Wilde in Aesthetic Dress. 1882.
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