Peacock Scholarship

The Purple Thread of Doom: Aestheticism and Dysfunction in the Works of Oscar Wilde

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Late 19th century Irish poet, playwright, and novelist Oscar Wilde challenged the norms and hypocrisy of Victorian society through his life and works. He was a follower of aestheticism, a counter-cultural movement that embraced “art for art’s sake,” which rejects the idea that art should advance a social or moral cause. Instead, beauty was upheld as art’s only aim. The movement’s reach soon went beyond the arts and crossed over into life, taking with it the amorality and detachedness that should be only applied to art. This thesis will demonstrate the incompatibilities between aestheticism and life that appear in three of Wilde’s works: the fairy tale “The Happy Prince,” the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the play Lady Windermere’s Fan. This will be performed through the application of Wilde’s aesthetic triad of the artist, critic, and public within the medium of life. Each text’s conflict is a result of the failure of one or more persons of the triad to adhere to their roles.

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  • 06/10/2020
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