Wilde and Chesterton may seem an unlikely pair. The overlap in critical diction between those who discuss modernist difficulty as playing tricks and those who discuss Chesterton’s and Wilde’s work as playing tricks is not coincidental. This article argues that the essay as practiced by both offers a new way to discern and articulate what it means for a text to be understood and to fashion itself as difficult. Both Chesterton and Wilde write form-visible, self-consciously stylized essays, provoking questions that parallel those surrounding modernist difficulty. Through their essays both coerce a critical posture of constant uncertainty as to whether what one is encountering is illusory, substantive, or somehow both. To differing degrees they leave readers with a sense of the substantive being made possible by the illusory. They caricature, magnify, and distend comprehensibility, making it if not less comprehensible less invisible. [142 words]


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 391-413
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.