Body and Soul: Nature, the Host and Folklore in The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • Jarlath Killeen
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


In the previous chapter I concentrated on demonstrating Oscar Wilde’s dedication to undermining what Speranza called the ‘common-sense’, literalist focus of English society. This focus manifested itself in the commitment to the plenary inspiration of the Bible by most Protestant churches, a commitment which involved reading every statement of the Bible on every subject as literally true. The depth of this commitment to literal reading caused the Protesting churches extreme epistemological difficulty when the Higher Criticism undermined sola scriptum religion. Empirically based religion was undermined by an empirically based methodology of reading. However, the issue of the English literal imagination is also of vital concern when examining Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, because the novel form itself was at the centre of debates about the application of empiricism in the nineteenth century. It is important to note that, while the novel was issued in two very different editions — the first in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890, the second as a very revised single volume in 1891 — it is only with the second of these editions I will be concerned with here. I will detail below how interpreting Dorian Gray as an intervention in the debate about the relationship between the novel and reality in the nineteenth century can help in clearing up the rather confusing question of what exactly Wilde was trying to do in his literary experiment.


Foreign Plant Colonial Discourse Spiritual Quest Catholic Theology Natural Virtue 
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Copyright information

© Jarlath Killeen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jarlath Killeen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KeeleUK

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