Oscar Wilde: The Double Image
by George Woodcock
Black Rose Books, 1989
Cloth: 978-0-921689-43-0 | Paper: 978-0-921689-42-3
Library of Congress Classification PR5823.W6 1989
Dewey Decimal Classification 828.809

Oscar Wilde was seemingly drawn towards many paradoxes: paganism and Christianity; to be a playboy or a prophet; or to be an aesthetic clown or the creative critic. George Woodcock takes us through this double image of the celebrated personality and writer and attempts to resolve the contradictions. Wilde was influenced by Walter Pater and the Epicureans, by John Ruskin’s theories on Art and also by his severe criticisms of the Industrial Revolution, and by the writings of Chuang Tzu, the ancient Chinese Taoist. He was also drawn to Jesus trying bravely to fit him into his growing asymmetrical system. The Wilde/Queensborough ‘scandal’ trial is not much discussed here, but the resultant works are: De Profundis, the letter to Lord Douglas, erstwhile lover and nemesis; The Ballad of Reading Gaol, that heartrending dry of pain from the universal prison. The paradox: this is the same man who wrote frothy plays like The Importance of Being Earnest and the manifesto, The Souls of Man Under Socialism, which is included in this book, a work which socialists do not take seriously because they have difficulty envisioning a non-authoritarian society. Oscar Wilde could. In reality, he expressed an anarchist, individualist vision, straight, thus coming close to unraveling his own, and our paradox.

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