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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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Fairy Tales for Revolutionaries

Fairy Tales for Revolutionaries

(p.120) Chapter 4 Fairy Tales for Revolutionaries
Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siécle

Deaglán Ó Donghaile

Edinburgh University Press

Aestheticism, with its emphasis on the right to pleasure, countered late Victorian capitalism and its denial of rights to the working class. This problem is explored in Wilde’s short stories, “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant”, both of. While these tales have been interpreted as Christian allegories, they offer profound criticisms of the ideologies of capital and property. Proposing the mutualist alternative of shared, collective sacrifice in the face of poverty and the social injustices that provided the structural bases for the operation of capital, these socially-committed political fantasies articulated radical ideas that subverted the late Victorian bourgeois sphere. In these works Wilde also criticised socially conservative art for exhibiting “style without sincerity”, and proposed Peter Kropotkin’s anarchist ideal of mutualism as a serious model for social cooperation.

Keywords:   Fairy tale, Mutualism, Capitalism, Short stories, Poverty

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