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Authors in Context: Oscar Wilde (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 26 Feb 2009
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'For those who are looking for an accessible, informative and clear account of Wilde's work and career in a finely detailed context, Sloan's book is the very thing.' (The Wildean, July 2003)
About the Author
John Sloan is a specialist in the literature of the nineteenth century. His books include George Gissing: The Cultural Challenge and John Davidson: First of the Moderns, A Literary Biography
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John Sloan's 'Oscar Wilde' examines the Irish writer, his influences and his works, and how they impacted society then and today.
This book is part of the 'Authors in Context' series, a sub-series of the Oxford World's Classics series, which captures the essence of popular writers, including Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy (see my reviews on these books).
The series details a writer's life and times and also explores the social, cultural and political values that influenced their works. In addition to examining the writer's impact on their own times, each volume considers their interpretation today, in terms of being recontexualized on the stage and screen.
Author John Sloan is Fellow and Tutor in English at arris Manchester College, Oxford. He is a specialist in the literature of the late 19th century, and has written several books on the era, including A Literary Biography.
The book covers Wilde's extraordinary life, ranging from his early childhood and mother's influences, his marriage and his string of comedies, including the classic, The Importance of Being Earnest. It also details the court case and his subsequent imprisonment relating to homosexuality, and his final years as a broken man.
Sloan covers a great deal of ground in this volume, and explodes myths relating to the writer, now and then:
"The perception of Wilde's career as a writer has passed through several stages in this respect. In contrast to the established views of Wilde as an exceptional personality and dilettante, or as a conformist rebel or subversive, there has been an important revaluation of Wilde as a versatile professional writer, tuned to the necessary compromises and realities of literary production."
And in the final chapter, he concludes:
"Gradually, Wilde has begun to be seen as a serious literary figure, rather than as a dilettante and witty aesthete. This radical reassessment coincided with the liberalising atmosphere of British culture from the 1960s onwards which transformed Wilde into a cultural icon for those championing alternative values and the claims for the importance of popular culture. Finally, the gay rights movement and the rise of Irish literary studies in the late 1980s and 1990s resulted in new politicized readings and interpretations of Wilde and a greater appreciation of the contemporary relevance of his writings so that today Wilde's appeal to a wide variety of readers and theatre-goers is greater than at any time since his death."
'Oscar Wilde' includes an extensive chronology that covers in detail the major works and events of Wilde's life as well as an extensive further reading section plus a range of web sites on the writer.
While the book draws on a wide range of information, it is presented in a colorful and highly accessible manner, providing great insight into the man, society at the time, and Wilde's continuing relevance today.
-- Michael Meanwell, author of the critically-acclaimed 'The Enterprising Writer' and 'Writers on Writing'. For more book reviews and prescriptive articles for writers, visit [...]