Upon reflection, I have come to the conclusion that my greatest lesson from this course is that a literary work is so much more enriching if the reader looks below its surface. Wilde’s writings have an incredibly entertaining and often humorous surface; however – after learning about his life and about how to more closely read his work – I have found that an intensely tragic subtext exists beneath this cheery exterior. Most of this deeper meaning seems to be influenced by Wilde’s continual struggle with his identity as his sexuality, Irishness, upper middle-class background, and interest in aestheticism made him an outsider in aristocratic, English society. Furthermore, I really enjoyed exploring elements of this subtext such as the themes of bunburying, fatal attraction, wearing a mask, etc. Reading these works without discussing these metaphorical themes would still be worthwhile (as Wilde’s whit and surface-level social commentary are so masterful that they warrant study), but I would argue that one would never be able to fully grasp these writings’ true significance because so much of their greater meaning is connected to these hidden themes. As a result, I now feel that examining a work through an autobiographical lens is a much more fruitful endeavor than I originally thought.
This semester’s coursework really helped me engage with this subtext in a more structured way. The blogs gave me the flexibility to more deeply engage with the aspects of the works that I was most interested in. They also allowed me to experiment with different interpretations of these hidden meanings, which provided me with a more holistic view of each work. Additionally, the final presentation/paper gave me the opportunity to more substantially examine one of these themes (fatal attraction) and engage with the scholarly/critical discussion surrounding this element of subtext. While my paper primarily focuses on Salomé, I enjoyed connecting my ideas to other works (ex: Gross Indecency) because this practice helped me to synthesize the class’ greater themes into a valuable final discussion.