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Title: Bordering the aesthetic : Oscar Wilde and the discourses of literary modernity.
Author: Burrow, Merrick.
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1996
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My thesis is that the determinate categories and identities with which existing scholarship has framed interpretations of Oscar Wilde are themselves rendered uncertain by Wilde's emphasis upon figures of paradox and artifice. Drawing on the work of Jacques Deirida, the thesis examines the manner in which conceptual borders and frames of reference become increasingly complex in literary modernity, arguing that Wilde's corpus embodies a philosophy of modernity that is actually more powerful than the critical discourses which seek to master it. My focus on Wilde is twofold, looking at both his image as a privileged site of cultural memorialisation and his thought as a problematisation of institutional and subjective limits. The thesis is divided into two main sections, each containing two chapters. Broadly speaking, the first section deals with issues raised by historicist interpretations of Wilde, whereas the second concentrates upon the way in which readings of Wilde's literary corpus have been inextricably tangled up with physiological metaphors of biography, medicine, psychoanalysis and sexology. It is my contention that this entanglement is no mere accident, but rather is a manifestation of an underlying complicity between aesthetic, erotic and physiological figures. Chapter One looks at Wilde's and Nietzsche's attitudes toward history, relating this to general questions about modernity and postmodemity which are inextricable from (particularly Kantian) aesthetics. Chapter Two examines the concept of transgression and the complex manner in which it is thematised both in Wilde's corpus and in various critical approaches to his life and works. Chapter Three deals with the biographical overflow into interpretations of Wilde, considered in reference to his own writings on biography, portraiture and criticism. Chapter Four explores the passage between life and art to argue that the protean history of Wilde's corpus presents a challenge to materialist critical theories, and that the most powerful reading is one in which the essentially textual resources of Wilde's life, as well as his works, are brought to bear on the interpretative strategy itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature