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Cosmopolitan space: traversing London with Oscar Wilde
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2968-4867
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Taking up Julian Wolfreys’s suggestion that Wilde’s London is primarily psycho-geographical (1996), this paper responds by situating the topography his texts within the historical and spatial context of late nineteenth century cosmopolitan London. The significance of such an approach is twofold: it serves both to problematize the critical heritage (e.g. Brown 1995) which has tended to read Wilde’s cosmopolitanism as primarily a Kantian intellectual project rather than a product of his embodied experience of London, and it serves as an important case-study to help think-through the ways in which fin de siècle writers incorporated the insights of realist literary representations of the city in an aesthetics of space which anticipates modernism. Using the critical insights of Lefebrvre (1974) to suggest a more engaged treatment of the city at work in Wilde’s writing, this paper will focus primarily on ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (1887) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890/91), showing how Wilde constructs a London full of ‘curious effects’, to consider what is at stake in this representation of the city in the late nineteenth century. Focusing on the ways in which Wilde locates his action at loaded locations, such as Cleopatra’s Needle, what becomes apparent is the way in which the questions of politics and the revolutionary consistently underwrite his representational space, a cosmopolitanism based upon deconstructing national boundaries (and demonstrating how the fin de siècle city itself deconstructs discreet borders), so that London is figured variously as ‘bric-à-brac’ and as an art work which is constitutively ‘foreign’, containing alterity within it. The paper shows the way in which seemingly ‘stock’ imagery deployed in Wilde’s representation of the city may in fact be read as part of a wider and complex engagement with both the politics and the aesthetics of space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Oscar Wilde, London, Cosmopolitanism, Aesthetics, Space, 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime', The Picture of Dorian Gray
National Category
General Literature Studies Specific Literatures
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-146592OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-146592DiVA: diva2:1137904
Conference
Victorians Unbound: Connections and Intersections, BAVS 2017, Lincoln, UK, August 22-24, 2017
Available from: 2017-09-01 Created: 2017-09-01 Last updated: 2017-09-05Bibliographically approved

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