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Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siécle$
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Deaglán Ó Donghaile

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474459433

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474459433.001.0001

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Class, Criticism and Culture: ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’

Class, Criticism and Culture: ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’

(p.88) Chapter 3 Class, Criticism and Culture: ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’
Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siécle

Deaglán Ó Donghaile

Edinburgh University Press

“The Soul of Man Under Socialism” was not an uncharacteristically radical text, but one informed by Wilde’s consistent engagement with revolutionary politics. This chapter contextualises his essay against the anarchic views expressed a year prior to its first publication in “A Chinese Sage”, his review of Herbert Giles’ translation of the ancient philosophical writings of the Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tsŭ, which appeared in The Spectator. His observations on the dynamics of government, class and empire, and the ideas that he drew from these systems, informed the later essay’s critique of authority, in which Wilde’s defence of revolt as a moral responsibility is underlined by his emphasis on radical self-awareness. This chapter focuses on the essay’s recognition of the structural violence through which, Wilde believed, the authority of the state functioned. This, he argued, was due to the modern subject’s internalization of the values, mechanisms and ideology of authority through means of political and social conditioning.

Keywords:   Socialism, Anarchism, Rebellion, Authority, Individualism

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