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Oscar Wilde in Context
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Book description

Oscar Wilde was a courageous individualist whose path-breaking life and work were shaped in the crucible of his time and place, deeply marked by the controversies of his era. This collection of concise and illuminating articles reveals the complex relationship between Wilde's work and ideas, and contemporary contexts including Victorian feminism, aestheticism and socialism. Chapters investigate how Wilde's writing was both a resistance to and quotation of Victorian master narratives and genre codes. From performance history to film and operatic adaptations, the ongoing influence and reception of Wilde's story and work is explored, proposing not one but many Oscar Wildes. To approach the meaning of Wilde as an artist and historical figure, the book emphasises not only his ability to imagine new worlds, but also his bond to the turbulent cultural and historical landscape around him - the context within which his life and art took shape.


'… this volume will serve as an indispensable primer for those who wish to fit text to context and context to Wilde.'

Gregory Castle Source: Breac: A Digital Journal of Irish Studies

'… Powell and Raby offer a wonderful spectrum of new and old contexts for Oscar Wilde that will interest scholars and afficionados alike. Taken together, the chapters illustrate just how impossible it is to pin Wilde down in any particular context. Like Dorian’s ego, Wilde’s life 'fits no single narrative', as Ravenhill reminds us. Oscar Wilde in Context is a testament to the richness of Wilde scholarship today and a welcome new addition to it.'

Petra Dierkes-Thrun Source: Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies

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  • Chapter 1 - Son and parents: Speranza and Sir William Wilde
    pp 7-16

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Further reading

Wilde's works

Collected Edition of the Works of Oscar Wilde, ed. Robert Ross, 15 vols. (London: Methuen, 1908; rpt. 1969).
Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, ed. G. F. Maine (Glasgow: Collins, 1948); ed. J. B. Foreman (Glasgow: Collins, 1966); introduction by Merlin Holland (Glasgow: Collins, 1994; ‘Centenary Edition’, 1999).
The Annotated Oscar Wilde, ed. H. Montgomery Hyde (London: Orbis, 1982).
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, gen. ed. Ian Small (Oxford University Press, in progress):
Poems and Poems in Prose, ed. Karl Beckson and Bobby Fong (vol. I) (2000).
De Profundis and Epistola in Carcere et Vinculis, ed. Ian Small (vol. II) (2005).
The Picture of Dorian Gray, The 1890 and 1891 Texts, ed. Joseph Bristow (vol. III) (2005).
Criticism: Historical Criticism, Intentions and the Soul of Man, ed. Josephine M. Guy (vol. IV) (2007).
Plays I: The Duchess of Padua, Salomé: Drame en un Acte, Salome: Tragedy in One Act, ed. Joseph Donohue (vol. V) (2013).
Journalism I, ed. John Stokes and Mark Turner (vol. VI) (2013).
Journalism II, ed. John Stokes and Mark Turner (vol. VII) (2013).
The Artist as Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde, ed. Richard Ellmann (New York: Random House, 1969; London: W. H. Allen, 1970).
Complete Short Fiction, ed. Ian Small (London: Penguin, 1994; rev. edn, 2003).
The Complete Shorter Fiction of Oscar Wilde, ed. Isobel Murray (Oxford University Press, 1979; World's Classics edition, 1980).
The Complete Short Stories, ed. John Sloan (World's Classics) (Oxford University Press, 2010).
The Importance of Being Earnest as Originally Written by Oscar Wilde, ed. Sarah Augusta Dickson, 2 vols. (New York Public Library, 1956).
The Original Four-Act Version of The Importance of Being Earnest, ed. Vyvyan Holland (London: Methuen, 1957).
The Importance of Being Earnest, ed. Russell Jackson (London: Benn, 1980).
The Definitive Four-Act Version of The Importance of Being Earnest. Ed. Ruth Berggren (New York: Vanguard, 1987).
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, ed. Peter Raby (World's Classics) (Oxford University Press, 1995).
Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest: A Reconstructive Critical Edition of the Text of the First Production, ed. Joseph Donohue with Ruth Berggren (Gerrards Cross.: Colin Smythe, 1995).
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, ed. Richard Cave (London: Penguin Books, 2000).
Lady Windermere's Fan, ed. Ian Small (London: Benn, 1980).
Major Works, ed. Isobel Murray (World's Classics) (Oxford University Press, 2008; originally Plays, Prose Writings and Poems, 1975).
The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. Isobel Murray (Oxford University Press, 1974; World's Classics edition, 1997).
The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. Donald Lawler (New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1988).
The Picture of Dorian Gray, ed. Joseph Bristow (World's Classics) (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated Uncensored Edition, ed. Nicholas Frankel (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011).
Poems and Poems in Prose, ed. Isobel Murray (World's Classics) (Oxford University Press, 1997).
Salomé (Paris and London: Librairie de l'Art Indépendant; Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1893).
Salome: A Tragedy in One Act, translated from the French of Oscar Wilde; pictured by Aubrey Beardsley (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1894).
Salomé: A Tragedy in One Act, trans. from the French by Joseph Donohue (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2011).
Oscar Wilde: The Soul of Man and Prison Writings, ed. Isobel Murray (World’s Classics) (Oxford University Press, 1990).
A Woman of No Importance, ed. Ian Small (London: Ernest Benn, 1980).
Two Society Comedies, An Ideal Husband and Lady Windermere's Fan, ed. Russell Jackson and Ian Small (London: Benn, 1983; revised and reissued in separate editions, 1993).

Bibliographical works

Fletcher, Ian and Stokes, John, ‘Oscar Wilde’, in Anglo-Irish Literature: A Review of Research, ed. Richard Finnernan (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1976).
Fletcher, Ian and Stokes, John, ‘Oscar Wilde’ in Recent Research on Anglo-Irish Writers, ed. Richard Finnernan (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1983).
Mason, Stuart [C. S. Millard], A Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1914; reissued, 1967).
Mikhail, E. H., Oscar Wilde: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism (London: Macmillan, 1978).
Small, Ian, Oscar Wilde Revalued: An Essay on New Materials and Methods of Research (Greenboro, NC: ELT Press, 1993).
Small, Ian, Oscar Wilde: Recent Research, A Supplement to ‘Oscar Wilde Revalued’ (Greensboro, NC: ELT Press, 2000).

Biographical works

Belford, Barbara, Oscar Wilde: A Certain Genius (New York: Random House, 2000).
Davis, Coakley, Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Irish (Dublin: Town House, 1994).
Ellmann, Richard, Oscar Wilde (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1987).
Gide, André, Oscar Wilde (London: William Kimber, 1951).
Harris, Frank, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions (New York: Frank Harris, 1916; rev. edn, London: Constable, 1938).
Hart-Davis, Rupert (ed.), The Letters of Oscar Wilde (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1962).
Hart-Davis, Rupert, More Letters of Oscar Wilde (London: John Murray, 1985).
Holland, Merlin, The Wilde Album (London: Fourth Estate, 1997).
Holland, Merlin, Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde (London: Fourth Estate, 2003).
Holland, Merlin and Hart-Davis, Rupert (eds.), The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde (London: Fourth Estate, 2000).
Holland, Vyvyan, Son of Oscar Wilde (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1954).
Holland, Vyvyan, Oscar Wilde: A Pictorial Biography (London: Thames & Hudson, 1960).
Hyde, H. Montgomery, Oscar Wilde (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1975).
Hyde, H. Montgomery (ed.), The Trials of Oscar Wilde (London: Hodge, 1948).
Lottman, Herbert, Oscar Wilde à Paris (Paris: Fayard, 2007).
McKenna, Neil, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (London: Arrow, 2003).
Melville, Joy, Mother of Oscar: The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde (London: John Murray, 1994).
Mikhail, E. H. (ed.), Oscar Wilde: Interviews and Recollections (London: Macmillan, 1979).
Millard, Christopher, Oscar Wilde: Three Times Tried (London: Ferrestone Press, 1912).
Moyle, Franny, Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde (London: John Murray, 2011).
O'Brien, Kevin, Oscar Wilde in Canada: An Apostle for the Arts (Toronto: Personal Library Publishers, 1982).
O'Sullivan, Vincent, Aspects of Wilde (London: Constable, 1936).
Page, Norman, An Oscar Wilde Chronology (London: Macmillan, 1991).
Pearson, Hesketh, The Life of Oscar Wilde (London: Methuen, 1946; rev. edn, 1954).
Ricketts, Charles, Oscar Wilde: Recollections (London: Nonesuch, 1932).
Schroeder, Horst, Additions and Corrections to Richard Ellmann's ‘Oscar Wilde’ (Braunschweig: privately printed, 1989; 2nd edn, revised and enlarged, 2002).
Sherard, Robert Harborough, The Life of Oscar Wilde (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1906).
Whittington-Egan, Molly, Frank Miles and Oscar Wilde: ‘Such White Lilies’ (High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2008).

Criticism and context

Adams, James Eli, Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Masculinity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995).
Beckson, Karl, The Oscar Wilde Encyclopedia (New York: AMS Press, 1995).
Beckson, Karl (ed.), Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970).
Behrendt, Patricia Flanagan, Oscar Wilde: Eros and Aesthetics (London: Macmillan, 1991).
Bennett, Michael Y. (ed.), Refiguring Oscar Wilde's Salome (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011).
Bird, Alan, The Plays of Oscar Wilde (London: Vision Press, 1977).
Böker, Uwe, Corballis, Richard and Hibbard, Julie (eds.), The Importance of Reinventing Oscar: Versions of Wilde during the Last Hundred Years (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002).
Brake, Laurel, Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in the Nineteenth Century (London: Macmillan, 1994).
Bristow, Joseph, Effeminate England: Homoerotic Writing after 1885 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).
Bristow, Joseph (ed.), Wilde Writings: Contextual Conditions (University of Toronto Press, 2003).
Bristow, Joseph (ed.), Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008).
Brown, Julia Prewitt, Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde's Philosophy of Art (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997).
Caine, Barbara, English Feminism, c.1780–1980 (Oxford University Press, 1998).
Calloway, Stephen (ed.), The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde 1860–1900 (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2011).
Chamberlin, J. E., Ripe was the Drowsy Hour: The Age of Oscar Wilde (New York: Seabury, 1977).
Cocks, Harry, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (London: Tauris, 2003).
Cohen, Ed, Talk on the Wilde Side: Toward a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities (New York: Routledge, 1993).
Cohen, Philip K., The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde (London: Associated University Press, 1978; Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979).
Cook, Matt, London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Danson, Lawrence, Wilde's Intentions: The Artist in His Criticism (Oxford University Press, 1997).
Dellamora, Richard, Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
Dijkstra, Bram, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (Oxford University Press, 1986).
Dollimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).
Dowling, Linda, Language and Decadence in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (Princeton University Press, 1986).
Dowling, Linda, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994).
Ellmann, Richard (ed.), Oscar Wilde: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1969).
Eltis, Sos, Revising Wilde: Society and Subversion in the Plays of Oscar Wilde (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
Eltis, Sos, Acts of Desire: Women and Sex on Stage, 1800–1930 (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Ericksen, Donald H., Oscar Wilde (New York: Twayne, 1977).
Evangelista, Stefano, British Aestheticism and Ancient Greece: Hellenism, Reception, Gods in Exile (New York: Palgrave, 2009).
Finney, Gail, Women in Modern Drama: Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989).
Foldy, Michael, The Trials of Oscar Wilde: Deviance, Morality, and Late-Victorian Society (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).
Gagnier, Regenia A., Idylls of the Marketplace: Oscar Wilde and the Victorian Public (Stanford University Press, 1986).
Gagnier, Regenia A. (ed.), Critical Essays on Oscar Wilde (New York: Twayne, 1991).
Gere, Charlotte and Hoskins, Lesley, ‘The House Beautiful’: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Interior (Aldershot: Lund Humphries and the Geffrye Museum, 2000).
Guy, Josephine M. and Small, Ian, Oscar Wilde's Profession: Writing and the Culture Industry in the Late Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2000).
Guy, Josephine M. and Small, Ian, Studying Oscar Wilde: History, Criticism, and Myth (Greensboro, NC: ELT Press, 2006).
Jackson, Holbrook, The Eighteen Nineties: A Review of Art and Ideas at the Close of the Nineteenth Century (London: Grant Richards, 1913).
Jenkyns, Richard, The Victorians and Ancient Greece (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980).
Kaplan, Joel (ed.), Modern Drama (Special Wilde number), 12.1 (1994).
Kaplan, Joel and Stowell, Sheila, Theatre and Fashion: Oscar Wilde to the Suffragettes (Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Killeen, Jarlath, The Faiths of Oscar Wilde: Catholicism, Folklore and Ireland (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Killeen, Jarlath, The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde (London: Ashgate, 2007).
Killeen, Jarlath (ed.), Oscar Wilde: Irish Writers in Their Time (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2010).
Kingston, Angela, Oscar Wilde as a Character in Victorian Fiction (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
Knox, Melissa, Oscar Wilde: A Long and Lovely Suicide (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994).
Kohl, Norbert, Oscar Wilde: The Works of a Conformist Rebel (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Livesey, Ruth, Socialism, Sex, and the Culture of Aestheticism in Britain, 1880–1914 (Oxford University Press, 2007).
Markey, Anne, Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales: Origins and Context (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011).
Marshall, Gail (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
McCormack, Jerusha (ed.), Wilde the Irishman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).
Meltzer, Françoise, Salome and the Dance of Writing: Portraits of Mimesis in Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1987).
Mendelssohn, Michèle, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Aesthetic Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 2008).
Morgan, Margery, File on Wilde (London: Methuen, 1990).
Nassaar, Christopher, Into the Demon Universe: A Literary Exploration of Oscar Wilde (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974).
Nunakowa, Jeff, Tame Passions of Wilde: The Styles of Manageable Desire (Princeton University Press, 2003).
Pine, Richard, Oscar Wilde (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1983).
Pine, Richard, The Thief of Reason: Oscar Wilde and Modern Ireland (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1995).
Powell, Kerry, Oscar Wilde and the Theatre of the 1890s (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
Powell, Kerry, Women and Victorian Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Powell, Kerry, Acting Wilde: Victorian Sexuality, Theatre, and Oscar Wilde (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Raby, Peter, Oscar Wilde (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Raby, Peter, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Reader's Companion (New York: Twayne, 1995).
Raby, Peter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Ransome, Arthur, Oscar Wilde: A Critical Study (London: Methuen, 1913).
Roden, Frederick S. (ed.), Palgrave Advances in Oscar Wilde Studies (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
Roditi, Edouard, Oscar Wilde (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1947).
Ross, Iain, Oscar Wilde and Ancient Greece (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
San Juan, Epifanio, The Art of Oscar Wilde (Princeton University Press, 1967).
Sandulescu, C. George (ed.), Rediscovering Oscar Wilde, Princess Grace Irish Library Series 8 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1994).
Schmidgall, Gary, The Stranger Wilde: Interpreting Oscar (London: Abacus, 1994).
Shaw, George Bernard, Our Theatres in the Nineties, in Collected Works of Bernard Shaw, vol. xxiii (London: Constable, 1931).
Shellard, Dominic and Nicholson, Steve with Handley, Miriam, The Lord Chamberlain Regrets: A History of British Theatre Censorship (London: British Library, 2004).
Shewan, Rodney, Oscar Wilde: Art and Egotism (London: Macmillan, 1977).
Showalter, Elaine, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (London: Bloomsbury, 1991).
Sinfield, Alan, The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde and the Queer Moment (New York: Columbia University Press).
Sloan, John, Oscar Wilde: Authors in Context (Oxford University Press, 2003).
Smith, Philip E. II and Helfand, Michael S. (eds.), Oscar Wilde's Oxford Notebooks: A Portrait of Mind in the Making (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
Stephens, John Russell, The Censorship of English Drama, 1824–1901 (Cambridge University Press, 1980).
Stokes, John, Oscar Wilde, British Council Writers and Their Work Series (London: Longman, 1978).
Stokes, John, In the Nineties (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989).
Stokes, John, Oscar Wilde: Myths, Miracles and Imitations (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Sullivan, Kevin, Oscar Wilde (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972).
Symons, Arthur, A Study of Oscar Wilde (London: Charles J. Sawyer, 1930).
Tanitch, Robert, Oscar Wilde on Stage and Screen (London: Methuen, 1999).
Thornton, R. K. R., The Decadent Dilemma (London: Edward Arnold, 1983).
Turner, Frank M., The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981).
Tydeman, William (ed.), Wilde, Comedies: A Selection of Critical Essays (London: Macmillan, 1982).
Tydeman, William and Price, Steven, Salome (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
Varty, Ann, A Preface to Oscar Wilde (Harlow: Longman, 1988).
Voskuil, Lynn, Acting Naturally: Victorian Theatricality and Authenticity (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004).
Waldrep, Shelton, The Aesthetics of Self-Invention: Oscar Wilde to David Bowie (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
Walsh, Éibhear, Oscar's Shadow: Wilde, Homosexuality and Modern Ireland (Cork University Press, 2012).
Woodcock, George, The Paradox of Oscar Wilde (London: T. V. Boardman, 1949).
Worth, Katharine, The Irish Drama of Europe from Yeats to Beckett (London: Athlone Press, 1978).
Worth, Katharine, Oscar Wilde (London: Macmillan, 1980).
Wright, Thomas, Oscar's Books (London: Chatto & Windus, 2008). Published in the United States as Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2009).
Yeats, W. B., Autobiographies (London: Macmillan, 1955).
Zagona, Helen Grace, The Legend of Salome and the Principle of Art for Art's Sake (Geneva: Ambilly-Annemasse, 1960).

Many specialized articles are listed in the endnotes to the essays in this volume, as well as other books. For new listings, and for other aspects of the context of Wilde's work, see bibliographies in, for example, English Literature in Transition, Modern Drama, Nineteenth Century Theatre, Victorian Newsletter and The Year's Work in English Studies.

The volumes listed above edited by Karl Beckson, Richard Ellmann, Regenia Gagnier and William Tydeman provide an excellent introduction to the range of critical essays and reviews on Wilde. The collection edited by George Sandulescu reprints the papers given at the Wilde Conference in Monaco, 1993.

For meticulous and illuminating commentary on Wilde scholarship, see Ian Small, Oscar Wilde Revalued and Oscar Wilde: Recent Research.