Oscar Wilde Rebellion of His Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

" (Eksteins, 1994)

Eksteins writes that Britain had "in the last century...damned her great poets and writers, Byron had been chased out of the country, Shelley forbidden to raise his children, and Oscar Wilde sent to prison." (1994) Pearce (2003) states that Wilde "was a major symbol of the sexual anarchy that threatened the purposive and reproductive modes of the bourgeois family. Algy mocks the utilitarian nature of modern marriage thus: The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public." (Shoewalter, 1992; in Pearce, 2003)

The narratives of this period were realist in nature and such that centered around "marriage and inheritance were giving way to fantastic 'finde siecle' tales about split personalities. (Showalter, 1992: in Pearce, 2003) Many of Wilde's plays were a "critique of the naturalization of bourgeois relations" and these are stated to have been "particularly evidence in the uncertain or hidden heritage, parentage or filiations that forms the crux of many of his plays." (Pearce, 2003) Pearce states that in Wilde's rejection of the bourgeoisie the association is made with the "modernist attempt to force new affiliations within the aesthetic realm." (2003)

Wilde did not look to art for imitation of life but for seeking out life's expressions of beauty and as well "sought to utilize inversions, ironies and shifts in points-of-view to produce new meanings and possibilities, similarly to twentieth-century modernism." (Pearce, 2003) Wilde was anti-modern and held that for those whom all that exists is the present then those individuals do not know anything about the age in which they live. Wilde is stated to have extended the emphasis of Baudeliairei...on the modern heroism of the artist to include the critic: eit is rather the beholder who lends to the beautiful thing its myriad meanings and makes it marvelous for us, and sets it in some new relation to the age." (Pearce, 2003)

Simon Conen states, in the work entitled: "Social Criticism in Oscar Wild's Lady Windermere's Fan" that Oscar Wilde held that rebellion was a requirement and that was his reasoning for supporting the women's liberation movement and in fact, was committed to women's struggle for equal rights. The Victorian Era was one characterized by purity, self-discipline, family, sexual morality, work and capitalism." (2000) Additionally a "predominant inequality in the treatment of the genders" (Conen, 2000)

Conen (2000) state that characterizing the Victoria Era was the fact that women did not earn money during the Victorian Era and most particularly those from the upper and middle classes. These women were greatly restricted and their entry to many professions was barred as it was the general opinion that these women were to marry and rear children.

Female occupations in the Victorian Era included:

1) Domestic servant;

2) Dressmaker and milliner;

3) Factory worker;

4) Governess or teacher;

5) Member of religious order;

6) Nurse;

7) Writer; or 8) Prostitute. (Conen, 2000)

During the Victorian Era marriage was not for the sake of love but for the conveniences and securities of family and marriage.

Conen states that the normal process involved the parents finding a partner that was suitable for their child. In the case of an undesirable match, the parents intervened. These parents quite simply, made their daughter's decisions for them. Parents during the Victoria Era "...thought mainly in commercial terms; the social status or the institution 'marriage' itself seemed far more important than the husband-to-be as a person. Society marriage could be seen as a mere mercenary affair:

People did not marry for love so much as for the conveniences of the families concerned; all marriages were in this sense arranged. Marriage is here seen as an economic transaction: the woman acquires security, and the wealth to maintain a conspicuous social position; in return, the man's sexual infidelities are condoned, or at least overlooked." (Conen, 2000)

As one can easily see the good old 'double standard' for the genders was alive and well in the Victorian Era.

The Victorian Age has its own distinctive ideas concerning marriage and marital loyalty and believed that the family was "...patriarchal, based on a double standard of sexual morality according to which fidelity was demanded of the wife while the husband pursued his extra marital career of sexual escapades among prostitutes or expensive mistresses, depending on his social class. Even the law supported these different moral principles that granted men the right to have sexual relationships with other partners." (Conen, 2000)

Conen relates that the 'Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857' made it legal for a man to bring about a dissolution to his marriage if the wife committed adultery however, the wife could only seek a divorce in the event she was able to prove her husband was guilty of unfaithfulness and cruel. Either way: "the children became the man's property and the mother could be prevented from seeing her children." (Conen, 2000) Additionally all the property and money of the women actually belonged legally to her husband. The woman in the Victorian Era has few rights and the double standard was fully accepted so women had to tolerate much

IV. Wilde and Beauty

The concept held by Wilde of the beautiful is one that "encompassed all aspects of humanity, evil and sin included." (Pearce, 2003) Wilde is connected with the post-colonial concern in his construction "of himself as saint and sinner in De Profundis" though it "refuses the kind of mutually exclusive positions that reduce choice and agency." (Pearce, 2003) Pearce states that Wilde held more value in "the deliberateness and self-consciousness of lying, as opposed to the careless habits of accuracy because of its association with creativity." (2003) primary component of later modernism is stated to be observation of the movement between light and dark. Wilde held that the spheres of Art and Ethics "are absolutely distinct and separate." (Wilde,'Critic,' p.393) Pearce states that one need not wonder where Wilde stood "in the debate between the ancients and the moderns because it is noted by Josephine Guy that "if Pater reworked tradition as a cover for new emphases, Wilde reworked it so as to set the new itself in greater relief." (Pearce, 2003) From the view of Wilde there is no authority in tradition because "contemporary purpose authorizes tradition." (Pearce, 2003)

Wilde held that the classics "had become degraded in being used as bludgeons for preventing the free expression of Beauty in new forms." (Wilde, Oscar, 'The Soul of Man under Socialism' in Richard Ellmann, Artist as Critic. p.273; as cited in Pearce, 2003) Wild held that "the old believe everything: the middle -aged suspect everything and the young know everything." (Green, R.J. 'Oscar Wilde's Intentions: An Early Modernist Manifesto' British Journal of Aesthetics 13.4 (Autumn, 1973): 397-404. p.402; as cited in Pearce, 2003)

Wilde looked completely over the past even a return in brief form to the past in his search for beauty that is not formerly proscribed within society but that is impulsive and spontaneous in nature. Wild found great novelty in both art and individuality and characterized art that was contemporary to his generation "in terms of its seeking for new subjects in poetry, new forms in art, new intellectual and imaginative enjoyments." (quoted in Patricia Clements, Baudelaire and the English Tradition. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985).p.151; as cited in Pearce, 2003)

Wilde was completely in contrast "...to the maturity of Victorian culture.." (Pearce, 2003) Wilde responded to the restrictions of Victoria society and sought utopia in physical artistic creation and production and managed to do as what Adornois conceived as the "...utopian impulse within modernism" the art is stated to be subversive and of the nature that illuminates that which 'is'. (Pearce, 2003)

Wilde's conception of art is the belief that utopia represents a world in which life imitates art: the utopia represented in "The Importance of Being Earnest" is one in which double lives are not so much exposed, as in conventional Victorian drama, but revealed as true Hidden lives repressed by convention, are, in the utopian moment, allowed realization. This is a world turned upside-down." (Pearce, 2003)

In this world, there is reversal of hierarchies and transcended oppositions and is a world in which 'Truth in art is that whose contrary is also true. The dialogic form of his essays employ shifting and dislocated viewpoints to rework inherited forms, categories and language Through this form the thinker is able to reveal and conceal himself, and give form to every fancy, and reality to every mood." (Pearce, 2003) Pearce holds that the very strong links between later modernisms and Wilde's work "allow changes in our understanding of both. " (Pearce, 2003)

Oscar Wilde held that criticism had a very specific function and was for the purpose of interrupting "...the flow of linear time and make it a bid for life on a…

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