Oscar Wilde and the Politics of Irish Aestheticism
"Readings of Oscar Wilde have been burdened by an affliction he struggled against all his artistic and intellectual life: cliché. The strongest and earliest clichés or stereotypes were provided by Wilde himself, in the form of the English aristocratic dandies that populate his society comedies. These seemed suited to light, if engaging, Victorian melodramas designed to appeal to a popular audience. More recently, however, many critics have attended to the subversive edge within his drama. They have recognised the modernist challenge that underlies the veneer of Victorian culture. Katherine Worth has stressed the psychological or existential aspects of Wilde’s drama. The influences of symbolism and aestheticism, of course, very clearly point to his connection with later modernisms (2). Wilde is increasingly recognised as one of those who undertook, in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, new experiments in language, identity and form."