Oscar Wilde

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Oscar Wilde


The term " aestheticism" derives from Greek and means: "Perceiving through senses". It was also for the Romantic culture, in fact the movement has its roots in the Romanticism, but, at the same time, it signs a turn: now tartist, or better the aesthete, has to feel the sensations but also live them in his life. The message of the aestheticism is: "Living the beauty!" The figure of the aesthete presents some corrispondences with the French figure, "the poete maudit", who refuses all the values and the conventions of the society, he chooses the evil, he conduces a dissolute, unregulated life, till the extreme limit of the destruction through the vice of the flesh, the use of alcohol and drugs. Both of them refuses bourgeois normality: Also the "poete maudit" follows the mystic cult of the art and exalts the evil for its aesthetic value, for its sublime and horrid beauty. The aesthete too refuses the moral rules and the conventions, he arrives to accept the crime because it indicates free action without rules. The movement evocates a return to the art of Middle Ages, when the artist is a sort of craftman, who creates his art- work with his creativity, he is free from any rules (while the academic art of the Victorian society is characterized by a rigid respect of the rules),he creates entirely his work, not only a piece of it.

We can consider as forerunners of the movement John Keats, who belonged to te second generation of Romantic poets, D.G.Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelithes, who wanted an art closer to the primitive beauty. In France the best representative of Aesteticism is J.K.Huysman with "A ribour" (1884), whose protagonist Des Esseintes becomes the ideal incarnation of the aesthete. In Italy G.D’Annunzio creates another important model of the aesthetic movement with Andrea Sperelli in "Il piacere" (1889).


A major spokesman for the Aesthetic movement in the late 19th century and an advocate of "Art for art’s sake", which proposes that beauty has no utilitarian value and is independent of morality, is Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854, of professional and literary, but also very eccentric parents: his father, Sir William Wilde, is a known eye and ear surgeon, he gives him several names, which are a concentrate of ideas ( for example "Fingal" is the name of a legendary Irish figure, a sort of ossianic poet , "O’Flahertie" is the name of a warrior tribe of Ireland), his mother, Jane Elgee, is a fervent nationalist poet, and she, for her desire to have a daughter, dresses little Oscar in girl’s clothes. After attending Porpora Royal School (1864-71), Wilde goes, on successive scholarship, to Trinity College, Dublin (1871-74), where he studies Latin and Greek literature. Here he first reveales his unconventional personality and thanks to his love for classics he wins a Gold Medal for Greek and a scholarship for Madgalen College, Oxford (1874-78), which awards him a degree with honours. Soon he becomes famous as poet winning the Newdigate Prize in 1878 with a long poem, "Ravenna". During these four years he is well known for his wit, his ostentatious dresses and his eccentric behaviour as well as for his aestheticism. He is an anticonformist , a wonderful entertainer and a brilliant talker; his conversation is a provocative combination of satire, paradox and epigram through which every Victorian institution and value is criticized and ridiculed. He is deeply impressed by the teachings of the English writers John Ruskin, a critic of art, and Walter Pater, the theorist of aestheticism, on the central importance of art in life and particularly on the aesthetic intensity by which life should be lived ( the life imitated the art and not vice versa). Like many in his generation, Wilde is determined to follow Pater’s urging "to burn always with a hard, gemlike flame". But Wilde also...
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