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Critical Context for Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest

ENG645 Research Project #1
by

Lisa Herring

on 18 September 2012

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Transcript of Critical Context for Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest

Lisa Brake Herring
ENG645 Oscar Wilde's
The Importance of Being Earnest Context of Literary Tradition Synopsis Published in 1894 & performed in 1895 at St. James’s Theatre in London
Comedic & farcical in nature
Written within Wilde’s contemporary societal context
Uses puns, irony, humor, duality, and triviality to criticize Victorian social institutions, societal expectations
Wilde’s most popular play
Early Modernist literature Victorian to Modernism A Collection of Criticism Bibliography
Articles

Monographs

Book Reviews

Websites Criticism Availability three two one Key Issues What Everyone’s Talking about "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing."
– Gwendolyn Fairfax, Act III

Aestheticism & Manners Aesthetics – “art for art’s sake”
Manners vs. morals
Goal is to shock audience
Decorum, triviality, & Victorian society Aestheticism & Manners “On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”
– Jack “Ernest” Worthing, Act III

Naming Conventions & Duality Earnest vs. Ernest
Duality & Bunburying in Wilde’s personal life
Adhering to and/or avoiding Victorian social norms Naming Conventions & Duality “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
– Lady Bracknell, Act I

Social Criticism & Farce Role of comedy
Characters’ behavior as reactions against Victorian societal norms
Redefining good & evil
Gender roles & sexuality Social Criticism & Farce Conclusions Thank you for your time! Conclusions Key Issues explore similar themes and/or items through different lenses

Reliable secondary source websites are difficult to locate

Article abstracts and book reviews are great resources for quick context
Full transcript