Labyrinths of Reason from Augustine to Wilde
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This chapter examines Wilde’s modernist aesthetics by tracing the Gothic legacy of post-Reformation British cultural history in the religio-political debates of the late nineteenth century. By focusing on the ways in which the intellectual crisis created by the Reformation overlaps with the revival of ancient Pyrrhonian skepticism, this chapter offers a study of Christian and modern subjectivity through Augustine, Luther, and Descartes, and argues that these authors provide substantial contexts to begin to rethink Wilde’s later Gothic modernism. It examines how the threatening Gothic labyrinth that leads to certainty, in Wilde’s life and work, takes form in the intricate and meandering patterns, redolent of poisonous indecency, decadence, and Catholicism, that typify the style of the dandy.