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Author Study: Oscar Wilde Curated by Emily Liu '23

Summarize of Oscar Wilde's criticism

    Although Oscar Wilde’s work never received any major awards nowadays readers consider as important (for example, he never won the New York Times best seller even once), he still received praises from all around the world.

    People often describe his pieces as “charming”, “beautiful” and sometimes even “wonderful”. Oscar Wilde's fame is mostly based on his novel, plays, and fairy tales. Most of Wilde's plays receive critiques such as "witty" and "humorous", this builds up to Wilde's reputation of being a playwright insist to their own philosophy and opinion. The fairy tales written by Oscar Wilde are not only for children, those tales has a deeper meaning in it which people from all age would find it interesting. His novel, however, was controversial through out time, many people argue about his approach of imply the close relationship between Dorian Gray and Basil; such close relationships between a young man and a gentlemen appeared in Wilde's several other novellas. 

    When Oscar Wilde was still alive and haven’t gone through the trial yet, his works were praised by the audiences of that time. Later in the 20th century, after the trail, people took a long time to accept Oscar Wilde again. During those times, his work received some harsh critiques, with many people accusing whether the work was deep enough and whether the works have a solid meaning behinds its beauty.

To: The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Pushed to the edge of the landmass and to the edge of endurance, the Celt was reasserting the primacy of imagination, of mythopoeism, against the despotism of fact.”

-Irish critical author Richard Pine, explicating The Picture of Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray, with all its faults, is a wonderful book.”

-Irish dramatist and poet William Yeats wrote about Wilde’s book

“… a parable of the fall… without any emotion, ... in his life’s drama, simply as a method of procuring extraordinary sensations.” 

-American writer Joyce Carol Oates described The Picture of Dorian Grey in Critical Inquiry

To: De Profundis

 "In the beautiful pages about Jesus which form the greater part of De Profundis, Oscar divined the very secret of Jesus… in these pages Oscar Wilde really came close to the divine Master…”

“By bitter suffering he had been brought to see that the moment of repentance is the moment of absolution and self-realization.” 

-Editor Frank Harris (who wrote Wilde’s biography), discussing the motif of Christ-like “self-realization” moments in Wilde’s De Profundis

To: Wilde's fairy tales

“A fairy-story is an allegory designed to give children a picture of the real, adult, world, and to enable them, by understanding its constituent parts, to negotiate a satisfactory path in the real world. A folk-tale is more vicious, a parable: it is a tale for adults who have lost their way among the signposts and have experienced some of the disruption related in the tale ... Wilde's stories belong to the folk genre.”

-Richard Pine, overall criticism of Wilde’s fairy tales

“They are quite beautiful, dear Oscar, and I thank you for them from the best bit of my heart ... I should like to read one of them some day to NICE people--or even not nice people, and make 'em nice.”

-British actress Ellen Terry, comments on Wilde’s fairy tales in a letter she wrote to Oscar Wilde

To: Portrait of Mr W.H.

“Wilde's Portrait of Mr. W. H. is more than a refutable theory, a charming piece of speculation. It is an illustration of the critic as artist…”

-Critical study work by Arthur Ransome, a discussion of various of works by Wilde

To: The Canterville Ghost

“Effectively, he mocks the extravagant paraphernalia of the conventional ghost story while simultaneously reinscribing its concerned fascination with the continua between the natural and the supernatural, life and death, and past and present. Wilde’s stylistic recourse to parody, then, involves a comic inversion of narrative conventions that results in a light-hearted but essentially critical probing of serious issues.”

-Critic Anne Markey, in an essay discussing Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost

To: A Woman of No Importance

“The true center of A Woman of No Importance is this interaction between human nature and the laws which seek to confine it.”

-The British 19th and 20th century specialist Dr. Sos Eltis in her book Revising Wilde

“Alan Bird and Norbert Kohl both criticize Wilde for writing a superficial play that caters to a superficial audience. Ian Small and Josephine Guy use the play to underscore their argument that Wilde’s talent was meager and his goals primarily commercial.”

-Christopher S. Nassaar, published in Etudes Anglaises, 2015

To: Wilde's poetry

“Wilde imitated what he loved so intensely in the great poets of his century. Drawing from John Keats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Algernon Charles Swinburne, Wilde demonstrated an aestheticism like theirs...”

-English writer and poet Richard Aldington discussed about Wilde’s first poetry collection Poems