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Oscar Wilde's America: Counterculture in the Gilded Age

Blanchard, Ms. Mary Warner

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ISBN 10: 0300074603 / ISBN 13: 9780300074604
Published by Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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302 pages, illustrated throughout in b&w. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page. Light sun-fade along dust jacket spine. Clean, tight copy. Record # 458885. Bookseller Inventory # 458885

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Oscar Wilde's America: Counterculture in the...

Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


In 1882 Oscar Wilde toured America as the "Apostle of Aestheticism", his wit and brilliance and deliberate outrageousness creating controversy among audiences across the continent. The America visited by Wilde was a nation still badly shaken by the trauma of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In this atmosphere Wilde's message of regeneration through art and beauty seemed to many Americans to open new horizons of social possibility. In this book, a cultural history of the aesthetic movement in the United States, Mary W. Blanchard provides an account of a neglected dimension of American history. Blanchard shows that the aestheticism was a wide-ranging popular movement, implemented by an array of tastemakers, resisted by the moral guardians of Victorianism. She constructs the lives of the female visionaries who used the decorative arts to assault the conventions of middle-class milieu and to advance in the social and business worlds of the Gilded Age. She also shows how the movement allowed new forms of identity for men - in particular feminized or homosexual roles that were profoundly at odds with Victorian notions of manliness. Drawing on evidence from material culture, popular media, and history and literature, Blanchard reveals aestheticism as an oppositional movement in the American Gilded Age.

From Publishers Weekly:

The Wilde revival?or is it a craze??continues with Blanchard's study of the Apostle of Aestheticism and his influence on art and culture in America's Gilded Age, that blink in time between the "bronzed heroism" of the Civil War and Teddy Roosevelt's imperialist machismo. Like the recent film Wilde, Blanchard, an associate fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, opens with Wilde's triumphant 1892 lecture tour of the U.S., when the writer was at the pinnacle of his success (in 1895 he would be convicted of "gross indecency"). Her first few chapters constitute a detailed, though familiar, exploration of "aesthetic style and the masculine self," which recalls many of the conclusions and propositions already advanced by such theorists as Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfeld, and historians such as Ann Douglas, George Chauncey and Jackson Lears (all of whom are cited). Fresher material follows in Blanchard's meticulous foray into the decorative arts, using nearly 200 lovely period illustrations of popular art and dress, outlining the role of women as tastemakers. Her discussion of largely unsung "female visionaries" (Candace Wheeler, Celia Thaxter, M. Louise McLaughlin and Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer), and of "the aesthetic parlor," "the female body" and "the catholic icon," adds new perspective on the period and serves to support her contention that in the U.S., "aestheticism was the story of the feminine and domestic world." Wilde's fall, Blanchard argues, was paralleled by an American "repressive reaction" largely because of the association between aesthetic style and the feminine. While the "counterculture" of the 1880s?by now a kind of Hundred Years War of sense and sensibility?remains at the cultural borders, work like Blanchard's has moved questions of aesthetics and gendered identity into the heart of the land.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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