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Faculty Forum: Dr. Nicholas Frankel
"Oscar Wilde: Life as a Work of Art"

Oscar Wilde famously said that “one should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” That he wore works of art is well known: virtually every surviving photoportrait of Wilde from the years before his criminal conviction and imprisonment shows him immaculately dressed, coiffured, groomed, and bedecked in resplendent jewelry, often with a carnation or iris carefully placed in his lapel. But in what sense was Wilde himself a work of art ? And what does it mean to transform oneself into a work of art – to treat oneself and one’s life as one might treat a painting, poem, or work of sculpture ?

In this talk I shall discuss how Wilde [, a self-proclaimed “Professor of Aesthetics,”] not only [incorporated his aestheticism into himself – and in turn] represented himself as a creature wholly of art [–] but also how he embraced daily life, experience, and even nature more broadly as if they were fundamentally artistic and imaginative phenomena[, the mainsprings of what Walter Pater called a “quickened, multiplied consciousness.”] “Nature is no great mother who has borne us,” he once wrote: “She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens... Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us.” For Wilde, life itself was a constantly-evolving work of art.

Mar 4, 2021 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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