Oscar Wilde and Victorian Psychology
thesisposted on 01.05.2012, 09:17 by Nazia Parveen
This thesis examines Oscar Wilde’s theories of art in connection with specific debates ongoing in Victorian psychology as it emerged in the periodical press. By cross examining Wilde’s periodical contributions with psychological theories, concepts and discussions disseminated through periodicals this thesis offers a contextual account of Wilde’s creativity. Scholars generally look to Wilde’s Oxford Notebooks to gain an insight into his interaction with scientific culture. While the notebooks are an invaluable source to scholars they only cover Wilde’s learning in the 1870s and therefore exclude the influential context of the 1880s when he was engaged as a journalist for numerous periodicals and newspapers. Chapter one will demonstrate how reading Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray alongside neighbouring articles in the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine reveals the hidden context of psychology in which the editors of the issue attempted to establish the text. The second chapter explores Wilde’s engagement in the disputes over psychological nomenclature alongside the psychology of George Henry Lewes, James Sully and other contributors. The third chapter will investigate the network in which Wilde’s reviewing for the Pall Mall Gazette established him. Wilde’s exchanges with aesthetic theorists and fellow reviewers Sully and Grant Allen will also be documented. The fourth chapter will demonstrate how Wilde creatively engaged with theories of atomism, emotionalist psychology and physiological aesthetics. The final chapter will examine the ethical questions posed by Wildean aesthetics in relation to scientific naturalism. Wilde originally communicated his theories through periodicals but also delivered lectures (which were reported in magazines), as well as eventually transforming his periodical articles into book publications. While this thesis places the onus on the periodical formats of Wilde’s texts, his lectures and revised editions of his writings will also be examined where relevant.