Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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CONTENTS

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p. v

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Prefatory Note

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pp. vi-viii

Academic books on Wilde usually come in three forms. There is the academic bibliography, a work designed purely as a research tool for the academic community: bibliographies might tell us, for example, about the location of manuscript material. Such tools are essential for the scholar, but of little use for the general reader. Second, there is the traditional monograph, which is usually (although not always) based on new research, either the kind which displays ...

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I. Studying Wilde: Academic Scholarship and the “General Reader”

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pp. 1-12

In the late 1980s and 1990s the future of literary studies as a discipline of knowledge within universities was being assiduously debated by academics on both sides of the Atlantic. The issues involved in that debate were complex, but one salient topic concerned the relationship of literary studies to cultural studies, and thus the relationship of literary judgments to political and ideological ...

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II. Lives of Wilde: Facts and Fictions

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pp. 13-46

The efforts of Wilde’s earliest biographers, writing in the first half of the twentieth century, have consistently been dismissed by their late-twentieth and twenty-first-century counterparts. The reason for this state of affairs is simple: many of the players who had roles in Wilde’s life were still alive for several decades after his death, and consequently any story of Wilde’s life had to ...

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III. De Profundis: Tragedy and the Art of Self-Fashioning

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pp. 47-76

Towards the end of the previous chapter we mentioned that the most potent of modern myths of Wilde was that which understood him as a tragic victim. It is easy to see how the general outline of this myth came about. We have to imagine a man at the height of his creative powers and the toast of London’s West End theatre suddenly finding himself incarcerated for a two-year sentence ...

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IV. Intentions: A Serious Writer for Trivial Readers; Or, A Trivial Writer for Serious Readers?

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pp. 77-113

Earlier we noted the discrepancy between academic interest in Wilde and his perennial popularity with the general reading public. In fact Wilde’s popular reputation today—as the author of four stylishly subversive comedies, a couple of touching short stories, and the macabre Dorian Gray—is not that different from the one which he enjoyed in the 1890s. Generally speaking ...

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V. The Plays: The Public and Private Worlds of Oscar Wilde

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pp. 114-163

We argued in chapter two that it is possible to find in some of Wilde’s works two distinct kinds of allusions: the private and biographical on the one hand, and the intellectual and the literary on the other. Wilde’s four society comedies—Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)—complicate ...

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VI. Dorian Gray and the Short Fiction: Choosing Between “Sinburnianism” and Pleasing the British Public

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pp. 164-195

In the previous chapter we discussed the ways in which the society comedies have been central in shaping our modern conception of what is a typically Wildean play. In this chapter we will make a similar case about the centrality of The Picture of Dorian Gray in shaping our views of Wilde as a writer of fiction. T hat work tells us emphatically—should we need to be told—that Wilde ...

Appendix: Wilde’s Unfinished Plays and Scenarios

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pp. 196-226

Index

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pp. 227-232