The Influence of Oscar Wilde's Sexuality | English Literature

Topics: Oscar Wilde, Victorian era, The Picture of Dorian Gray Pages: 56 (23358 words) Published: August 6, 2013
The Influence of Oscar Wilde's Sexuality | English Literature Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a writer whose homoerotic texts pushed the social boundaries of the Victorian era. Born to a family of unabashed Irish agnostics, the self-proclaimed "dandy" valued art, fashion, and all things physically beautiful. After receiving a comprehensive education from Oxford, Wilde made a name for himself in London first as a novelist, penning the now famous The Picture of Dorian Gray. A string of successful plays followed, among them "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "An Ideal Husband". Wilde also published a variety of short stories and essays, but is acclaimed by historians for his pioneering influence over the aesthetic movement, aprogression that opposed the accepted Victorian take on art in everyway, shape, and form. Wilde postulated that art existed solely foritself, only for the sake of being art. His play "The Decay of Lying"exemplified this tenet best, personifying his distaste for society's proclivities through a conversation between two people in a park.Though he fathered two sons, Wilde's marriage fizzled as his personallife continuously hinted at homosexuality. Wilde's inability to keephis private life secret proved to be his downfall; a love affair with aprominent nobleman resulted in Wilde's imprisonment and expulsion from British social circles. Victorian Britain became increasingly morally rigid, its period marking a time when Britain was experiencing a growthin imperialism and conservative thought. While serving his term for homosexual acts, Wilde wrote the deeply spiritual De Profund is, inwhich he discussed his aspirations of individuality and freedom from the proprietary values that bound late Victorian society. An avant-garde writer and raconteur, Wilde's sexuality had a profound effect on his works, influencing imagery and the nature of his characters in both The Picture of Dorian Gray and "The Importance of Being Earnest". Wilde's sexuality and effeminate nature shaped his relations to aestheticism, which in turn manifested itself in his works' moral implications. Wilde frequently employed thinly disguised doubles, representing himself in his work in order to juxtapose anaesthete and a traditionally Victorian society. Wilde's aesthetics arestrangely connected to his obsession with Jesus Christ. It is peculiarthat such an unorthodox figure such as Wilde would find so much solaceand inspiration from such a religious source. In De Profundis, Wilde's admiration for and comparison with Jesus takes on many levels. Helikens his persecution to Jesus' crucifixion, a notion that evokeshubris, especially given Wilde's naturally flamboyant disposition.Though not entirely humble, Wilde's comparisons are based more on parallels drawn between Wilde's persecution and the events leading to Jesus' martyrdom. Many speculate Wilde's eventual baptism and acceptance of Catholicism was a manifestation of imminent death's madness as the famed author was too radical to accept religion withinthe boundaries of sanity. However, there are critics who contend that Wilde "was very much in the mainstream of the intellectual currents of his time, a man clearly aware of what he was trying to achieve in terms of his life and art"; in the end, he was willing to accept his newfoundstatus as a pariah, provided he could still create plays and prose. Considered by many to be "the most outrageous trial of the century", Wilde's fall from grace was so indicative of his progression and the significance of his unique works set in a time "between the Victorianera and the modern age" (Hoare 4). Wilde's persecution reflected aclash of morals and ideals not unlike those faced by the protagonists of his novels. Wilde's trial mimicked his imaginative fiction: " was a clash of opposites: of good versus evil, of heterosexualand homosexual, of masculine and feminine, of the safe and thedangerous, of what was seen as morally right or morally wrong" (Hoare4)....

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