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Wilde's Philosophy of Art

  • Jun. 9th, 2009 at 10:26 AM
Excerpts for discussion from
Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde's Philosophy of Art
by Julia Prewitt Brown

Google Books
University of Virginia Press

p.2 "The strain of artificiality in De Profundis, something which critics have often pointed to with distaste, runs deeply through its prose, and with good reason. Wilde self-consciously displays the transcendent 'lie' of art, a lie that deserves to be defended if only because it corrects the far more pervasive and dangerous illusion that things as they are represent the whole truth."
~
p.2 "By art, Wilde means both the work of art and the aesthetic sense or potential in each of us. By life--which often appears in close proximity to the word art--Wilde means the ongoing experiences that constitute existence and, as such, contrast with the achieved stillness of artworks. That these experiences may include the apprehension or creation of art does not efface the distinction, dwelt upon throughout Wilde's life and work, between the finished work of art and lived experience.
~
p. 77 "The story of Dorian's relation to his own portrait is an intricately worked parable of the process of both depletion and expansion that can occur when we give ourselves to a work of art, the increase in our vulnerability to experience, the coming-to-life of the work of art, and the different ways we may react to and against art when all of this happens. In short, The Picture of Dorian Gray is about the dangers and opportunities that had arisen in a world in which art is no longer dependent on ritual. In this disenchanted world, the art object has achieved a life of its own, a nonritualized, nontraditional, magic that demands its human victims as once upon a time the ancient cult had done. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the tendency to keep the painting private, to own it, even to hide it, suggests a sacralizing and fetishizing power from which we can never fully protect ourselves,

just as Dorian cannot resist returning to the locked room where the painting is hidden and gazing upon it.

*
*mild spoiler for chapters 10-11; highlight with mouse to read.

~

As you read, what specific lines jump out to you regarding the relationship between life and art?

What kinds of art are presented in the story, and how do they impact the different characters?

If
The Picture of Dorian Gray is itself a work of art, what impact has it had on Wilde's life? your life? our collective reality? And how in turn does that outside context inform our experience reading the text?

Comments

[personal profile] fifi wrote:
Jun. 9th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
I think that, to a great degree, Dorian Gray is camp. It's camp not because it's mediocre in the usual way, but because it self-consciously tries to be more than it is. It's too ambitious. It tries to say that everything is artificiality and that the most sublime artificiality is art while it's lowest form is -- what? charity? I'm not rly sure what Wilde detested the most. Piety?

Wilde later claimed that Gray was* a morality tale, but the "good" characters aren't rly that admirable, they just have less opportunity to ruin and devastate.

Edited 2009-06-09 11:40 pm (UTC)

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