No text better enacted creative criticism than Oscar Wilde's "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." Through the imaginary portrait Wilde uses the language of criticism within the work's fictional frame to unsettle readers' expectations about critical method, leaving behind the idea that the critic be factually accurate, logically consistent. This article argues that with "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." Wilde challenges assumptions about fiction and criticism that still undergird our reading practices today. The text analyzes the sonnets and at the same time invites analysis of its own fictionality, encouraging readers to respond to the theory set forth. Wilde's portrait creates a Willie Hughes through its implicative readings of the sonnets but never reaches a decisive conclusion. Instead, it provides readers with a model of creative criticism, leaving them with the invitation to continue writing about and engaging with the Hughes theory.


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pp. 352-373
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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