Kathleen Riley

Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity

Oxford University Press
Published 2017
ISBN: 9780198789260

Edited by Kathleen Riley, Alastair J. L. Blanshard, and Iarla Manny

Few authors of the Victorian period were as immersed in classical learning as Oscar Wilde. Although famous now and during his lifetime as a wit, aesthete, and master epigrammist, Wilde distinguished himself early on as a talented classical scholar, studying at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford and winning academic prizes and distinctions at both institutions. His undergraduate notebooks as well as his essays and articles on ancient topics reveal a mind engrossed in problems in classical scholarship and fascinated by the relationship between ancient and modern thought. His first publications were English translations of classical texts and even after he had ‘left Parnassus for Piccadilly’ antiquity continued to provide him with a critical vocabulary in which he could express himself and his aestheticism, an intellectual framework for understanding the world around him, and a compelling set of narratives to fire his artist’s imagination. His debt to Greece and Rome is evident throughout his writings, from the sparkling wit of society plays like The Importance of Being Earnest to the extraordinary meditation on suffering that is De Profundis, written during his incarceration in Reading Gaol.

Oscar Wilde and Classical Antiquity brings together scholars from across the disciplines of classics, ancient history, English literature, theatre and performance studies, and the history of ideas to explore the varied and profound impact that Graeco-Roman antiquity had on Wilde’s life and work. This wide-ranging collection covers all the major genres of his literary output; it includes new perspectives on his most celebrated and canonical texts and close analyses of unpublished material, revealing as never before the enduring breadth and depth of his love affair with the classics.

 

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