Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity

Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity

Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity

Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity

Synopsis

"Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity presents an inclusive approach to Wilde criticism. It highlights the diversity in Wilde's writing, suggests strategies for reading, and leaves the reader to decide how best to apply them." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Until his ill-considered libel suit against the Marquess of Queensberry brought him disgrace in 1895, Oscar Wilde excelled at playing upon the power of popular sentiment to enhance the public's favorable perceptions of his life and his work. Thus, regardless of the flip tone of the epigraphs opposite, they reflect the serious attention that Wilde gave to the evocation of conventional views and traditional cultural values. Not only Algernon Moncrieff (the speaker in the first epigraph) but all of the characters in The Importance of Being Earnest--despite their extravagant behavior--retain a keen interest in the mores of Victorian society. Indeed, throughout Wilde's writing the "good example" of "the lower orders" plays a pivotal part in showing his characters just how far they can stretch the prescriptions for behavior imposed by societal norms.

For this reason, Wilde's remarks in the second passage serve the ancillary function of emphasizing, with only slight hyperbole, a consideration prominent throughout his own canon. Kipling's ability to reflect in his writing the central elements and common enthusiasms of popular culture inspires Wilde's genuine respect because all of his works--even, in a baroque fashion, Salome--grow out of and speak to the tastes of the broad middle-class segment that dominates late Victorian society. In the quotation, Wilde may seem to stigmatize Kipling's depiction of conventional values as an appeal to common vulgarity, but in fact his own work affirms an interest in cultivating voices that would produce similar popular resonances. (Biographies of Wilde leave the distinct impression that he would be far more comfortable acknowledging an interest in the vulgarity of the lower orders than in the refinement of the middle class. Nonetheless, in both the perspective that dominates Kipling's writings and the point of . . .

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