Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity

Michael Patrick Gillespie

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"Balanced, clear, and judicious . . . [it] examines all of Wilde's oeuvre, from essays through novel, plays, and last works; and it does so, notably, by examining Wilde and his era in generous scope. . . . This book has authority and thoroughness."--Roy Gottfried, Vanderbilt University


Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity presents an inclusive approach to Wilde criticism. It highlights the diversity in Wilde's writing, suggests strategies for reading, and leaves the reader to decide how best to apply them.
In the first critical approach to Wilde's entire canon based on reader-response theory, Michael Patrick Gillespie examines the historical and social contexts in which the works are received. He synthesizes over a century of criticism, highlighting specific elements while ignoring others.
Citing multiplicity as the defining feature of Wilde's artistic consciousness, Gillespie maintains that any other approach gives short shrift to central aspects of Wilde's aesthetics.
In his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde wrote, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written." He then adds, disingenuously, "that is all." Gillespie identifies the diverse features that make Wilde's works well written.

Michael Patrick Gillespie is professor of English at Marquette University, Milwaukee, and author of The Picture of Dorian Gray: "As the World Sees Me" and (with A. Nicholar Fargnoli) James Joyce A to Z.

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"Through analysis of individual works, biographical information, and nineteenth century history, Michael Gillespie argues for a new reading of Wilde's life and canon - a reading which begins by dramatically reevaluating th erelationship between Wilde, his art, and public opinion." "Taking in to account the affects and effects of Wilde's relationship to his art and to his audience, Oscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity presents a challenging and thoughtful reevaluation of Wilde's canon."--New Hibernia Review New Hibernia Review

"Gillespie proposes coherent and preceptive strategies for reading Wilde." English Literature in Transition

"Gillespie's study allows Wilde's work to speak for itself and evinces a modern stance of receptivity along with an aesthetic stance of distance combined with testing participation. He has taken Wilde criticism far - or closer to Wilde's work itself. But, in my opinion, he has not taken it far - or close - enough."--James Joyce Literary Supplement James Joyce Literary Supplement

"A welcome addition to the recent studies of Wilde's works." "Offers a coherent aesthetic response to Oscar's writing." -- Irish Literary Supplement Irish Literary Supplement

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