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Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture$
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Michele Mendelssohn

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748623853

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623853.001.0001

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The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and of Remaking Aestheticism

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and of Remaking Aestheticism

(p.90) Chapter 2 The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and of Remaking Aestheticism
Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture

Michèle Mendelssohn

Edinburgh University Press

Widely perceived to be an aesthete-for-hire, Oscar Wilde's purpose in the late 1880s and early 1890s was to shed this image and develop his own aesthetic ideals. One of the ways he did this was quite literally by putting things between boards. As a result, Wilde transformed himself into a real artist and a professional man of letters. He also reinvented Aestheticism in the process. This metamorphosis was due in no small part to his clashes with the painter James McNeill Whistler, as well as with Henry James. Wilde's systematic assimilation and reformulation of their views suggests that plagiarism and appropriation were integral to Aestheticism's evolution. This chapter explores how Wilde redeveloped Aestheticism through a programmatic assault on Whistler and James. Examined through the lens of his evolving artistic philosophy, Intentions and The Picture of Dorian Gray unequivocally testify to his intention to remodel Aestheticism and to make it over in his own image.

Keywords:   Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Aestheticism, James McNeill Whistler, plagiarism, appropriation, Intentions, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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