|dc.description.abstract||Few writers have captured the imagination of their own time, spawning so much criticism, gossip and mythologizing, as Oscar Wilde did. Wilde’s late Victorian era was a time of lively debate on art, gender and sexuality. It was also a time of dramatic social changes, with the discussion created to a large degree by the emerging sciences of psychology, sociology and sexology, just as literature and drama were being shaped by trends in literary and dramatic criticism. Simultaneously, Wilde’s era was also a time that witnessed a reactionary backlash against changes such as aestheticism in art, feminism, and after Wilde’s trial, homosexuality.
Wilde’s role in this intellectual, artistic scene is profoundly interesting; perhaps no other writer of the period quite captured the diversity, ambiguities and deep-seated ambivalence as acutely as Wilde did. His writings span from poetry, journalism on a vast array of topics, essays collected in Intentions, the historical dramas of Vera and The Duchess of Padua, society comedies and all the way to the confessional poetry of De Profundis. Wilde’s works, more than those of any other writer, have come to represent fin de siècle England. In addition to this, Wilde himself came to represent the fin de siècle individual, both to the public in his lifetime and to modern readers, a veritable icon of dandyism, subversiveness, homosexuality and individualism,
This thesis focuses firstly on Wilde’s society comedies in their historical context in order to clarify the question of how Wilde was influenced by the melodramatic theatre that had long been dominant in England. Secondly, it will also examine the discussion of theatre reform and realism that was the most credible, respected dramatic form during Wilde’s years as a playwright in 1893-95.||nor