Oscar Wilde and Feminism

Killeen, Jarlath
January 2004
Anachronist;2004, Vol. 10, p46
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
Oscar Wilde has recently been appropriated by feminist scholars in two distinct ways. On the one hand he is read as a proto-feminist writer, with feminist sympathies, whose editorial work publicised many women writers, and who publicly supported the causes of female education -- especially to university level -- female suffrage, and female participation in the workplace. However, many others have pointed out that despite this, there remains a powerful and important level of extreme misogyny running throughout his work, and that this must be read back into his political and aesthetic commitments. This article warns that, before we peremptorily attempt to assimilate Wilde into either a feminist or a misogynist paradigm, we must engage with the interpretive model in which he understood relations between the sexes: Roman Catholicism, which, while politically conservative, contained radically subversive gender possibilities.


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