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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2006


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35770 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
PAR 105

Course Description

"Perhaps I am chosen to teach you something much more wonderful, the meaning of Sorrow, and its beauty." (Oscar Wilde, De Profundis) There was special generation which ended the nineteenth century in Paris and London. Often merely designated as "Dandies" and "Flanneurs," or as Decadents, the particular circle whose most visible figure was Oscar Wilde watched the twilight of the nineteenth century while anticipating much of the experimentation of the twentieth. This course will be organized around the people, issues and art for which Oscar Wilde cared. The greatest love of his life, by his own admission was himself, and we shall look closely at Ellmann's biography and Wilde's own semi-autobiographical novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. At the center of the course, therefore, will be Wilde's own literary production from his delightful comedies like An Ideal Husband to his avant-garde theatre in Salomé, from his prose writings on socialism and society to his literary and aesthetic criticism. His biography, especially the scandal surrounding his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, and his last two writings, De Profundis and "The Ballad of Reading Goal" will allow a closure to his life, which ended in 1900, after his trials, disgrace and imprisonment for sodomy. Modern films about his life and work will complement our discussions. As an Irish ex-patriot, a devoted homosexual father, a playwright and society satirist, Wilde created an unparalleled cult of personality, whose legacy stretches as far as Glam Rock and Princess Diana in modern popular culture. We shall also position Wilde within his world. Introduced to the aesthetic philosophy of Hellenism while a student at Oxford by Pater and Ruskin, Wilde's career centered around the fine arts through TheYellow Book in London and the La revue blanche in Paris. Along with music, he was especially concerned with illustration and painting, from the Italian Mannerists to the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and the French Symbolists: Reni, Morris, Rossetti, Whistler, Sargeant, Moreau, Crane and Beardsley. We shall sketch a more complete portrait through the writings and lives of his colleagues and friends, particularly his connections to the French Decadent writers like Huysmans, Gide, Mallarmé and Verlaine. Wilde's brief life ended before the horrors of World War I could be fully imagined, and we shall end with imagining his life had he lived to see 1914 as some of his friends did. The course includes substantial work in the Fine Arts, especially painting, and comparative analyses between the London and Parisian literary scenes. It should be of interest to students of Victorian and Modernist studies, and to students interested in interdisciplinary work. The course finishes with an exploration of the legacy of his work in contemporary art and literary theory, with special attention to his current role in queer theory and post-colonial theory.


Texts will include: selections from The Complete Works Oscar Wilde, selections from Pater and Ruskin, Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, Huysmans, Against Nature, selected Poems of Gide, Mallarmé, and Verlaine, selected Renaissance, Victorian and Symbolist paintings, the films, including Gilbert's Wilde, Parker's An Ideal Husband and Haynes' Velvet Goldmine.


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