With our discussions from previous classes and today, a ton of questions started to overwhelm me, with none that I had the answers to. While reading selections from Aesthetes and Decadents as well as Oscar Wilde’s The Critic as an Artist, I began to wonder whether anybody could be an artist. The aesthetes, Symons specifically, constantly mention people such as littérateurs who “are impressionists because it is the Fashion, Symbolists because it is vogue, Decadents because Decadence is in the very air of the cafés” (144). In the modern-day, I feel like this description is synonymous with “pseudo-intellectuals.”
Before this class, I held a view that anybody can be an artist, as long as they consistently practice their craft. Some can be more gifted than others, but art is something that can be open to anyone, accessible and unbarring. The way the aesthetes speak about art almost contrasted this view, and it reminds me a lot of what we were talking about today regarding predestination in “The Harlot’s House.” The Calvinist view of poor people being poor because they were destined to be that way, making them more susceptible to “wicked things,” almost resembles the same argument of the littérateurs that Symons puts forth: art is for art’s sake, but somehow when saying that phrase, the artist and whether they were predestined to be an artist matters.
This line of logic lead me to our conversation in today’s class, where we talked about how Oscar Wilde’s poems in prose flowed better than his poems, as he adhered to the strict parameters and conventions of poetry with the rhyme scheme. He is better suited for the prose format to express himself and impress the reader at a deeper meaning—but what is the reason that we all agree his poems are not his strong suit? What is it about them? Was he, as an artist, simply predestined to be only skillful with prose and plays? I hope this semester that I can keep thinking about style and the aesthetes, and why exactly everyone praises him for his prose and plays rather than his poetry.