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Dorian Unbound

Transnational Decadence and the Wilde Archive

Sean O'Toole

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A bold reimagining of the literary history of Decadence through a close examination of the transnational contexts of Oscar Wilde's classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Building upon a large body of archival and critical work on Oscar Wilde's only novel, Dorian Unbound offers a new account of the importance of transnational contexts in the forging of Wilde's imagination and the wider genealogy of literary Decadence. Sean O'Toole argues that the attention critics have rightly paid to Wilde's backgrounds in Victorian Aestheticism and French Decadence has had the unintended effect of obscuring…

A bold reimagining of the literary history of Decadence through a close examination of the transnational contexts of Oscar Wilde's classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Building upon a large body of archival and critical work on Oscar Wilde's only novel, Dorian Unbound offers a new account of the importance of transnational contexts in the forging of Wilde's imagination and the wider genealogy of literary Decadence. Sean O'Toole argues that the attention critics have rightly paid to Wilde's backgrounds in Victorian Aestheticism and French Decadence has had the unintended effect of obscuring a much broader network of transnational contexts. Attention to these contexts allows us to reconsider how we read The Picture of Dorian Gray, what we believe we know about Wilde, and how we understand literary Decadence as both a persistent, highly mobile cultural mode and a precursor to global modernism.

In developing a transnational framework for reading Dorian Gray, O'Toole recovers a subterranean network of nineteenth-century cultural movements. At the same time, he joins several active and vital conversations about what it might mean to expand the geographical reach of Victorian studies and to trace the globalization of literature over a longer period of time. Dorian Unbound includes chapters on the Irish Gothic, German historical romance, US magic-picture tradition, and experimental English epigrams, as well as a detailed history and a new close reading of the novel, in an effort to understand Wilde's contribution to a more dynamic idea of Decadence than has been previously known.

From its rigorous account of the broad archive of texts that Wilde read and the array of cultural movements from which he drew inspiration in writing Dorian Gray to the novel's afterlives and global resonances, O'Toole paints a richer picture of the author and his famously allusive prose. This book makes a compelling case for a comparative reading of the novel in a global context. It will appeal to historians and admirers of Wilde's career as well as to scholars of nineteenth-century literature, queer and narrative theory, Irish studies, and art history.

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Dorian Unbound

Sean O'Toole

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Reviews

This is the study of Dorian we have been waiting for. Dorian Unbound takes a much more expansive view of the various influences upon the text that go beyond British aestheticism and French decadence. O'Toole does an excellent job wearing his erudition lightly: his text is richly and deeply informed by the archive and extant scholarship, but it reads like a dream.

O'Toole brings into dialogue a range of influences on Wilde's text that have rarely been discussed together, illuminating the novel from an entirely new vantage point. Dorian Unbound will have a considerable impact on our understanding of one of the most widely-read novels in English literature.

Dorian Unbound brilliantly tracks the extraordinarily wide-ranging sources that informed the development of Oscar Wilde's oeuvre, reorienting our understanding of Decadence through a more expansive, generative view of Wilde's transnational network of influences.

More than any other previous study, Dorian Unbound reveals that the queer form of Wilde's classic novel engages with a striking array of transnational antecedents. Here the Irish Gothic of Maturin, the Teutonic horror of Meinhold, and the eerie American portrait tales of Hawthorne, Poe, and James are elegantly interwoven with the dandyish dialogic wit of Meredith and Peacock.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
192
ISBN
9781421446530
Illustration Description
12 b&w photos
Author Bio
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Sean O'Toole

Sean O’Toole (NEW YORK, NY) is an associate professor of English at the City University of New York, Baruch College. He is the author of Habit in the English Novel, 1850–1900.