Reflection on Semester

As I go back to the earlier parts of the semester, I remembered that my ambition for this class was to study the works of a renowned writer in hopes to gain some insight into the process of writing and the “art” of writing. However, I found myself unable to study his actual methods of writing, mainly because of the depth his works carried. As the semester progressed and we learned more about the character of Wilde as well as his experiences, I found myself looking for these pieces and fragments within his works. There was a bit of a wake up call; as I have only studied a few of Wilde’s works before this course, I only saw him as a masterful writer and artist. As we delved deeper into his character and his history, I found myself disillusioned with Wilde, as much of his arrogance and reckless nature was shown, especially in the later texts we studied.

I did find myself fascinated by Wilde’s utilization of social class as a theme. I think I noticed this theme heavily with The Picture of Dorian Gray and first started to get interested through the novel. Soon after reading The Importance of Being Earnest, I had already decided that this theme would be the topic of my final paper. I thought it was beautiful how Wilde satirized the reality of this caste system of the Victorian era; he also seemed to offer his own opinions on the respective classes and the tendencies each carried. I wanted to really get into the deeper roots of his commentary and found myself looking for similarities in his other works that we looked at closer to the end of the semester. Although my paper focuses on the aforementioned texts, I am still eager to research and delve into other texts to find more outlets of comparison.

2 thoughts on “Reflection on Semester”

  1. This is a great overview on Wilde’s criticisms of social class, and you point out many ideas I noticed myself. One thing I did not realize coming into this class was Wilde’s specific social standing. As we read The Harlot’s House and his other poems, I found myself tending to think of Wilde criticizing the upper class from a lower class perspective, similar to Dickens and other writers I’ve read. However, Wilde’s position in the ascendency class is far more complex. Especially when we got to De Profundis, I realized the intricacies of Wilde’s life and how he was influenced by Bosie who comes from a higher class status. I think that Wilde’s class status allows him to critique the upper class from with such a familiar tone which, in turn, allowed his criticisms in his more popular plays to fly under the radar of his upper class audience members. We talked about how Wilde’s works almost seem to foreshadow the course of his life, specifically the trials and his relationship with Bosie. Stepping back, I think we can read a foreshadowing of his behavior in light of his elevated status as he became more well known as a writer. Perhaps like the characters in his plays like An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde too fell victim to the overindulgence of high society.

  2. I agree that Wilde’s relationship to the upper class in his life and in his work is fascinating. In my research for my final, I found that scholar Jonathan Fryer suggested that Wilde was a sort of observer of this upper class, with one foot in and one foot out of high society. I agree with this because Wilde enjoyed the high-society life (even though he still had to work), but still commented on it, and as you said, often satirized it. He wanted its approval, but did not like a lot of what he saw. He certainly did not want to abandon the comforts of that life, but he had a different relationship to high society than other members had.

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