Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home

The Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde

An Annotated Selection

Oscar Wilde

Edited by Nicholas Frankel

ISBN 9780674271821

Publication date: 12/13/2022

Request exam copy

An authoritative edition of Oscar Wilde’s critical writings shows how the renowned dramatist and novelist also transformed the art of commentary.

Though he is primarily acclaimed today for his drama and fiction, Oscar Wilde was also one of the greatest critics of his generation. Annotated and introduced by Wilde scholar Nicholas Frankel, this unique collection reveals Wilde as a writer who transformed criticism, giving the genre new purpose, injecting it with style and wit, and reorienting it toward the kinds of social concerns that still occupy our most engaging cultural commentators.

“Criticism is itself an art,” Wilde wrote, and The Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde demonstrates this philosophy in action. Readers will encounter some of Wilde’s most quotable writings, such as “The Decay of Lying,” which famously avers that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates life.” But Frankel also includes lesser-known works like “The American Invasion,” a witty celebration of modern femininity, and “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea,” in which Wilde deftly (and anonymously) carves up his former tutor’s own criticism. The essays, reviews, dialogues, and epigrams collected here cover an astonishing range of themes: literature, of course, but also fashion, politics, masculinity, cuisine, courtship, marriage—the breadth of Victorian England. If today’s critics address such topics as a matter of course, it is because Wilde showed that they could. It is hard to imagine a twenty-first-century criticism without him.

Praise

  • No, it’s not poetry, but it’s the next best thing: prose that floats along on rhyme and rhythm…Rejoice in a book made up of what one essay calls ‘passages…[of]…pure and perfect beauty.’

    —The Tablet

Author

  • Nicholas Frankel has published many books about Oscar Wilde, including Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years, The Short Stories of Oscar Wilde, The Annotated Prison Writings of Oscar Wilde, The Invention of Oscar Wilde, and The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. He is Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author

Recommendations