The Wilde Century

Alan Sinfield

Published by Columbia University Press, 1994
ISBN 10: 0231101678 / ISBN 13: 9780231101677
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Synopsis: For 15 years in Victorian England, Oscar Wilde was able to carry on like the famous camp queen of our imaginings - effete, leisured, aesthetic, amoral, decadent, dandified. This work explores how Wilde was seen before the trials that ended his career and made him the most famous queer man since Socrates. In particular, it examines the concept of effeminacy and asks how Wilde's effeminacy was perceived. In examining these points, Sinfield ranges over issues of identity, subculture, race, style, masculinity, homophobia, genetics and gender-bending. He broaches the thesis that the Wilde trials bring into focus a particular image of the queer man which has extended into the 20th century, and that our stereotypical notion of male homosexuality derives from Wilde and our ideas about him. Sinfield assesses the strategic options for lesbian and gay subcultures today. This provocative book aspires to set the agenda for a gay cultural politics - a hundred years after the Wilde trials, on the threshold of the 21st century.

Review: Like all great artists, Oscar Wilde - and his work - can encompass a wide variety of meaning and discussion. In The Wilde Century British scholar and critic Alan Sinfield uses "Wilde" as both example and symbol of the changing meanings of "effeminacy" in modern culture.

To a large degree Wilde's "foppishness," seemingly flippant satire, and "art for art's sake" aesthetic has defined both the nature and social attitude of homosexuality for the past 100 years. By examining Wilde's work, as well as a broad range of other topics--from E. M. Forster's and Ronald Firbank's novels to the post-modern theories of Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick--Sinfield explores how ideas about gender and morality have shaped the very core of how we define art and politics. In Sinfield's impressive, even dazzling analysis, Wilde is both the generator and the touchstone for a contemporary queer sensibility in which creativity, social change, and a clear vision of a better world can become a reality. --Michael Bronski

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Title: The Wilde Century
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: 1994
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: New

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