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.
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.’
A remarkable collection…Students and scholars of literature will relish these witty, acerbic outings.
This is an absorbing volume for which all Wilde fans should be grateful.
A lucid guide to the dissident thought of Oscar Wilde, who attacked the genteel gender norms and philanthropic pieties of imperial Britain. At this moment of cultural crisis in the dwindling humanities, Wilde's eloquent defense of individualism, as well as his celebration of the beauty and power of art, could not be more timely.
Wilde was a first-rate critic and an essayist and a thoughtful provocateur years before he became a successful playwright, a scandalous novelist, or a queer icon: he’s still a terrific critic today, with a range wider than almost anyone knows. Here are essays you’ve read if you care about Wilde already (‘The Decay of Lying’) and essays even scholars may not have seen. Here is the impossible socialist, anti-populist radical, anti-Platonic creator of Platonic dialogues, infinitely insatiable individualist, and, of course, ‘The Critic as Artist.’ If you’re like me, you owe it to yourself to return to him and check him out. We shall not see his like again.
It is refreshing to see Wilde the critic take center stage. This is an astute selection showing the full range of the essays, dialogues, and reviews that helped make Oscar's name, brought together expertly by Nicholas Frankel, whose characteristically insightful introduction is essential reading.
- 400 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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