In The Invention of Oscar Wilde, Nicholas Frankel examines Wilde’s life from a new perspective.
Oscar Wilde is an icon to both writers and the LGBTQ+ community. He assumed many roles throughout his life: poet, art critic, dandy, Englishman, self-promoter, playwright. He also had many roles assigned to him by others: copycat, poseur, genius, defendant, convicted criminal. Frankel unpacks and examines each of these labels, how they interacted with each other, and how they have continued to influence public perception of Wilde’s legacy from his death to the present day.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born into a celebrated but troubled family. He began the process of reinvention at Oxford, where he came under the influence of brilliant intellectuals and cast off both his Irish accent and all but two of his names. He would reinvent himself throughout his life, even incorporating the creative endeavors of others—from classic poets to those who parodied Wilde himself—into his own image. Changes in Wilde’s image became no less dramatic after his death, with modern scholars finding in his works and persona an important precedent to modern gay rights and feminist movements.
Frankel employs close readings of Wilde’s works to reveal the impact of the people, events, and revelations that shaped him throughout his life. Pictures of Wilde, and of contemporary satirical portrayals of him, demonstrate this link between man and image. Even those who already know Wilde’s story by heart will enjoy Frankel’s detailed analysis of the way Wilde influenced, and was influenced by, those around him.
The Invention of Oscar Wilde shows how the famous writer and aesthete built up his public image so successfully that it still resonates today.
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