This new study of the major prose and plays of Oscar Wilde argues that his dominant aesthetic category is not art but style. It is this major emphasis on style and attitude which helps mark Wilde so graphically as our contemporary. Beginning with a survey of current Wilde criticism, the book demonstrates the way his own critical essays anticipate much contemporary cultural theory and inform his own practice as a writer.Neil Sammells traces the processes of stylisation in his work and the importance of 'camp'. He looks at the famous society comedies and argues that they display greater and greater degrees of stylisation, culminating in the most stylish, playful and political of his writings: The Importance of Being Earnest. The final chapter looks at the political implications of Wilde's dandyism, and his influence on contemporary pop culture.
Neil Sammells is Deputy Vice Chancellor (Provost) and Professor of English and Irish Literature at Bath Spa University, UK.