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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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Civil Disobedience and The Importance of Being Earnest

Civil Disobedience and The Importance of Being Earnest

Chapter:
(p.174) Chapter 6 Civil Disobedience and The Importance of Being Earnest
Source:
Oscar Wilde and the Radical Politics of the Fin de Siécle
Author(s):

Deaglán Ó Donghaile

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474459433.003.0007

Wilde’s most successful play portrays the ruling class as being both haunted and mirrored by the spectre of disruptive politics and the threat of revolution. Centred on Lady Bracknell’s claim that the expansion of education can “prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square”, it explores the play’s engagement with late Victorian radicalism in relation to this key reference to its most shocking contemporary expression - the riot. This play parodies and subverts the concept of private property which, he warned in “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”, had already crushed the human spirit. Exploring the play as a text concerned with the problem of violent authority, this chapter points to its darkly subtle commentary on the readiness of the middle and upper classes to deploy coercion and maintain its political authority.

Keywords:   Authority, Violence, Riot, Comedy, Revolution

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