Sexual Drama in the Early Poetry

  • Patricia Flanagan Behrendt

Abstract

A mainstay of Wilde criticism is an attempt to reconcile Wilde’s personality, which led to his public reputation as a decadent dandy and poseur ruined in a spectacular sex scandal, with his achievements in literature. In 1985, in the introduction to a volume of critical essays covering Wilde’s major works, Harold Bloom returns, as most Wilde critics explicitly do, to the ultimate question: why was the artist who was so immersed in life and letters, the author of “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” and The Importance of Being Earnest, “so doom-eager?”1 Why did Wilde, at the height of his reputation as a successful playwright, allow himself to be broken on the public wheel of scandal which he could have avoided? The puzzle is exaggerated by our general tendency to exalt artistic and intellectual achievements, elevating them above other aspects of human behavior, especially above those associated with sexual activity which society labels scandalous.

Keywords

Explosive Hunt Crest Egypt Boris 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Harold Bloom, Oscar Wilde (New York: Chelsea House, 1985), p.6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    André Gide, Oscar Wilde (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Quoted in Philip Cohen, The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde (Rutherford, Madison, Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978): preface, p.4.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See John Stokes, Oscar Wilde (London: Longman Group, 1978);Google Scholar
  5. Epifanio San Juan, The Art of Oscar Wilde (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967);Google Scholar
  6. Edouard Roditi, Oscar Wilde (New York: New Directions, 1986; orig. pub. 1947);Google Scholar
  7. Donald Ericksen, Oscar Wilde (Boston: Twayne, 1977).Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Richard Pine, Oscar Wilde (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1983), p.31.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Quoted in H. Montgomery Hyde, The Annotated Oscar Wilde (Clarkson N. Potter, 1982), p.18.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Brian Reade, Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850–1900 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), p.27.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Hesketh Pearson, Oscar Wilde (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1946), p.46.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Boris Brasol, Oscar Wilde (New York: Charles Seribher’s Sons, 1938), p.70.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    William Butler Yeats, quoted in Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage, ed. Karl Beckson (London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), p.399.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “Unmanly Manhood,” Woman’s Journal [Boston], 4 February 1882, xiii, 33.Google Scholar
  15. 30.
    Ambrose Bierce’s Satanic Reader, ed. Ernest Jerome Hopkins (New York, 1968), pp.5–6.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    Review by Oscar Browning, in Academy, 30 July 1881, xx, 85.Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    Robert H. Sherard, The Life of Oscar Wilde (London, 1906), p. 134.Google Scholar
  18. Quoted in Ernst Bendz, The Influence of Pater and Matthew Arnold in the Prose Writings of Oscar Wilde (Folcroft, PA: The Folcroft Press, 1914), p.34.Google Scholar
  19. 36.
    Walter Pater, The Renaissance (New York: Methuen Library Edition, 1910), p.138–39.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p.95.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    J. Peter Euben, “Preface,” Greek Tragedy and Political Theory, ed. J. Peter Euben (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), p.x.Google Scholar
  22. 43.
    Edward Tripp, The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology (New York: New American Library, 1970), pp.68–69.Google Scholar
  23. 45.
    Rictor Norton, The Homosexual Literary Tradition (New York: Revisionist Press, 1974), p.364.Google Scholar
  24. 46.
    Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp.95–96.Google Scholar
  25. 47.
    See Peter Webb, “Victorian Erotica,” in The Sexual Dimension in Literature (London: Vision, Barnes and Noble, 1982), p.55.Google Scholar
  26. 50.
    See Patricia Flanagan Behrendt, “Dangerous Wounds: Vampirism as Social Metaphor in Zola’s Thérèse Raquin,” The European Studies Journal, II, 2 (1985),Google Scholar
  27. Bram Dykstra, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siècle Culture (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  28. 51.
    Philip Cohen, The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde (Rutherford, Madison, Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978), pp.46–47.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patricia Flanagan Behrendt 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Flanagan Behrendt
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NebraskaLincolnUSA

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