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The Decadent ImageThe Poetry of Wilde, Symons, and Dowson$
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Kostas Boyiopoulos

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748690923

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748690923.001.0001

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‘Charmides’ and The Sphinx

‘Charmides’ and The Sphinx

Crashing into Objets d’Art

(p.46) Chapter 3 ‘Charmides’ and The Sphinx
The Decadent Image

Kostas Boyiopoulos

Edinburgh University Press

Sensualising the frozen spaces of art is best exemplified in the erotic entanglement with inert bodies in two narrative poems by Wilde, ‘Charmides’ (1881) and The Sphinx (1894). In these two poems Wilde anatomises impossible or transgressive desire and articulates a poetics of parrying and resistance. In ‘Charmides’ we follow Wilde’s experimenting with romance conventions through sexual encounters with a statue (agalmatophilia) and with a dead body (necrophilia). Wilde, the chapter suggests, engages here with the possibility of sensually violating the realm of beauty in its aesthetic perfection. These themes are updated in The Sphinx, a poem whose images emphasise Wilde’s ‘jewelled style’, fragmented eroticism, archaeological fantasy, and excess.

Keywords:   Oscar Wilde, ‘Charmides’, The Sphinx, transgression, statue, necrophilia, gems, style, excess

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