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|Title:||Oscar Wilde, Philosopher And Aesthete: An Examination Of The Evolving Aesthetic Of Oscar Wilde|
|Authors:||Macaulay, Irene Marcia|
|Advisor:||Vince, R. W.|
|Keywords:||English Language and Literature;English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>Oscar Wilde was one of the many men of intellectual stature in the nineteenth century who openly embraced and lauded Darwin's theory of evolution. However, with Wilde in particular, there is a kind of irony involved in this simple fact, since Wilde himself was a man highly aware and conscious of his own consistent and personal evolution. He anticipated, among others, Lawrence's feeling and belief that the "old stable ego" had had its day, and that human psychology was infinitely complex and required much insight and examination to be understood. For this reason any study of Wilde must be development in nature, because his ideas and theories change considerably over the short period of his life, although more frequently and consistently in the period prior to his eventual success as a playwright.<br /><br />Wilde was always developing, always undergoing a process of change. His work and his development is therefore essentially linear. No work written by Wilde is preconceived; the act of conception and the process of creation take place Simultaneously. Consequently~it is necessary to study Wilde linearly rather than to separate, for purposes of examination, his criticism from his art. One idea develops out of another, much like the effect of a tree branching. One could term the process metaphysical, or one could term it Socratic, but in Hegelian fashion he begins always with an assumed thesis and ends always with a new synthesis. <br /><br />The period under examination in this thesis is essentially that between the years "1885 - 1891", although an earlier essay "The Rise of Historical Criticism" is also included to provide focus. This early essay illustrates the extent to which Wilde's ideas were firmly rooted in Cartesian notions of reality. Romanticism, in the early nineteenth century is the first really major attack on this particular consciousness, and the Decadence of the "fin de siecle", as an outgrowth of Romanticism in effect reestablished the older, more mystical Romantic antagonism. Wilde's evolution therefore comprehends the growth of a new anti-Cartesian consciousness.<br /><br />“The Truth of Masks" is Wilde's first "Romantic” point of departure, although it is Romantic only to the extent that Wilde is discussing his own reactions to and expectations of the experience of theatre. It is decadent, and therefore something new,to the extent that Wilde is interested in very specific and isolated effects rather than the effect as a whole. The essay itself is a very important shift away from traditional concepts and modes of thought. Wilde is not analysing theatre per se, in isolation from his own experience, but rather using and therefore trusting his own experience to create his own criteria. The fairy tales both support and deny this kind of "self-oriented" reality. <br /><br />It is very clear that during the period when he is both writing his best criticism and his two books of fairy tales there exists in his mind a desire for some external Cartesian order or set of principles by which to evaluate reality, and an equally strong desire to cleanse himself of the particular assumptions of his own society and determine his own rationale for thought and behaviour. The fairy tales on the whole depict Wilde's growing skepticism in respect to assuming any set of principles not initially his own. Christianity figures very strongly in many of the tales, until specifically in "The Devoted Friend", Wilde forces himself to see the emptiness of the principles as they are practised.<br /><br />In the later criticism and The Picture of Dorian Gray Art is evaluated by Wilde first, very much like Arnold, as a replacement for religion, then as a possible destroyer of selfhood and imagination, and finally, in a return to many of his initial ideas in "The Truth of Masks", as a form of experience. At this point he originates his concept of "the Critic as Artist" which in itself is a minor revolution in thought. By placing the critic on a par with the artist, Wilde's effectively destroys any concept of the mind as a "tabula rasa" or mere receptor for information. He insists that art is a product of both the creativity of the artist and the critic, and therefore constitutes a form of legitimate experience for the critic. <br />Arriving at such an assumption Wilde is forced to discard a very extensive body of thought; this thesis shall attempt to examine the process by which Wilde comes to do so and in turn formulate his own theories of experience and art and to discuss the relevance or significance of Wilde t s theories as they evolve.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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