The poetry of Oscar Wilde : a critical study

Gardner, Averil (1970) The poetry of Oscar Wilde : a critical study. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Though the name of Oscar Wilde is a familiar one both to the general reader and to students of English Literature, little serious critical attention has been given to his work and, in English at least, almost none at all to his poetry, which he wrote with varying degrees of concentration throughout his literary career. -- This study has been undertaken partly in order to rectify what seems an unnecessary omission by simply examining Wilde's poetry in some detail and thus restoring it to critical notice, and partly in order to discover whether it has any merits or whether the neglect of it hitherto is entirely justified. -- The first Chapter surveys generally the extent and amount of Wilde's poetry as a necessary preliminary to more detailed descriptive and critical discussion. Chapter II is concerned with the contents of Wilde's first volume, Poems (1881), which it finds to be, on the whole, an immature and imitative production, with no fixed views of life or individuality of style. Because the scale of Wilde's imitativeness in this volume provoked contemporary accusations of plagiarism, Chapter III examines Wilde's debts to other English poets at some length and offers very tentative reasons (though not justifications) for his frequent pilfering. -- Chapter IV considers Wilde's less prolific but more accomplished poetry from 1882 to 1894, his 'aesthetic' and 'decadent' phase, paying particular attention to the influence of painting and that of mid-nineteenth-century French poets, especially as this is seen in his long poem The Sphinx. Chapter V is devoted to a lengthy discussion of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Wilde's best-known poem and one of his few which can challenge, and sustain, comparison with the work of his contemporaries. -- Chapter VI points in conclusion to a division in Wilde's poetry between a bulk of work which is of no more than juvenile or 'period' significance, and a handful of mainly later poems which have merit and individuality sufficient to establish Wilde's claim to serious consideration. In particular, the outstanding quality of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, not only when compared with most of Wilde's poetry but when compared with the poetry of his time, prompts the final verdict (not perhaps original but at least arrived at after due weighing of the evidence) that Wilde was a minor poet who, as a result of experiences which forcibly deepened his human responses, produced a major poem.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7147
Item ID: 7147
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [161]-163.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1970
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Great Britain
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900--Criticism and interpretation; English poetry--19th century

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