De Profundis is arguably Wilde’s most vulnerable piece of art. He writes from prison, his reputation eroded, and with a new outlook on life. It greatly differs from his other works, but in a sense it is still performative. I think Wilde partly uses De Profundis as a performance of his own truth, but a truth that does not fully consider his own actions and their consequences.
Wilde starts the piece with a pretty scathing denouncement of Bosie. His indiscretions about their relationship really illuminated how horrible Bosie treated Wilde, and it was a very vulnerable move on Wilde’s part. I think Bosie deserves to be called out for his actions, but Wilde fails to take into account his own choices in his involvement with Bosie. I think that this failure to address his own mistakes, and the fact that he went back to Bosie after getting out of jail makes me think about De Profundis being some ways in the context of a performative piece.
In class we discussed the question of if Wilde thought that others would be reading his letter. I think that he knew others would be reading it, and so in a way it was a method for Wilde to try and better his reputation. It is true that the mask is off and the jig is up, but by showing how bad Bosie was, maybe Wilde could have hoped to both work through his experience, and also to slightly clear his name. Wilde is shaping the narrative around their relationship, which is of course all he can do, but still there exists that intention alongside the vulnerability.
As much as it is frustrating to read that Wilde went back to Bosie even after everything that happened, I think about how complicated it was. I still think about how much of Wilde’s involvement with Bosie was feeling like he had no other choice. Like we read in “Love in a Dark Time,” when you are told that your love is gross and indecent, that must make you feel that you don’t deserve a healthy love. But then I also think about how neglected Wilde’s family was, and question Wilde’s thought-process there. I don’t know why Wilde went back to Bosie, if it was because he felt he had no choice, or just him not considering that he could and should live a life without him. But since he did go back, I do see a bit of performativity when I read De Profundis.