This might be a weird end of the semester post. Still, I think the cultural phenomenon of stickers is a fascinating way to understand the popular perception of celebrities, such as bands, writers, or characters. Stickers are a way to identify your interests, from slapping them onto your water bottle to your laptop for everyone’s viewing consumption. Professor Kinyon’s approach to modernity can be framed in the sense of stickers because they are a very modern or “Gen Z” type thing—simply walk into a classroom and spot everyone’s laptops littered with the stickers, showing off their interests to the world. One day, I looked up Oscar Wilde stickers on popular websites out of curiosity, such as Etsy and Redbubble, and an interesting phrase popped up: “Avenge Oscar Wilde” (https://www.redbubble.com/i/sticker/avenge-oscar-wilde-by-dangerdancing2/43456543.EJUG5).
The way we talk about writers from the past now highlights the cultural shifts, from Victorian to the aesthetes to the contemporary environment we are currently living. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, avenge means: “to take vengeance, inflict retributive punishment, exact satisfaction, or retaliate, on behalf of (an injured person, violated right, etc.).” Avenge is an intriguing word in the context of Wilde’s charge for gross indecency. It implies that the charge was a wrongdoing and that Wilde was a person who was violated by the legal system and their punishment for his queer identity (and arguably his subversive views on art being put on trial). I think the frame of avenging Oscar Wilde carries on his history of prison reform, the primary topic of my paper. But at the same time, I believe this vague phrase of avenging Oscar Wilde is more in the context of his identity as a queer man, which we have talked about a lot over the past semester, and how we label him a “homosexual” when those labels did not exist at the time. The prison wronged Wilde for his queer identity. Looking into the modern future, where being queer is still subject to hate crimes, microaggressions, stereotypes, and other similar things, Wilde still would not be prosecuted for his crimes today. The sticker assumes that by continuing to fight against a largely homophobic and heteronormative society, one will “avenge Oscar Wilde.”