Chapter

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and of Remaking Aestheticism

Michèle Mendelssohn

in Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623853
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651634 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623853.003.0003
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and of Remaking Aestheticism

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Widely perceived to be an aesthete-for-hire, Oscar Wilde's purpose in the late 1880s and early 1890s was to shed this image and develop his own aesthetic ideals. One of the ways he did this was quite literally by putting things between boards. As a result, Wilde transformed himself into a real artist and a professional man of letters. He also reinvented Aestheticism in the process. This metamorphosis was due in no small part to his clashes with the painter James McNeill Whistler, as well as with Henry James. Wilde's systematic assimilation and reformulation of their views suggests that plagiarism and appropriation were integral to Aestheticism's evolution. This chapter explores how Wilde redeveloped Aestheticism through a programmatic assault on Whistler and James. Examined through the lens of his evolving artistic philosophy, Intentions and The Picture of Dorian Gray unequivocally testify to his intention to remodel Aestheticism and to make it over in his own image.

Keywords: Henry James; Oscar Wilde; Aestheticism; James McNeill Whistler; plagiarism; appropriation; Intentions; The Picture of Dorian Gray

Chapter.  15273 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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