Project MUSE – Oscar Wilde ed. by Jarlath Killeen review

The critical rehabilitation of Oscar Wilde began with the publication of Richard Ellmann’s 1987 biography and was continued principally by British and American literary and cultural historians during the next two decades. One criticism of this body of work was that by stressing Wilde’s move away from Dublin, the absence of explicit references to Ireland in his work, his love of Oxford, and so forth, it recuperated Wilde as a British writer. As a consequence a counter-criticism of the Irish Wilde was established, whose aim was the recovery of Wilde for a specifically Irish tradition, as exemplified by Davis Coakley’s Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Irish 1994. More recently this project has been taken up by a new generation of Irish academics. Jarlath Killeen’s earlier monographs on Wilde represent attempts to locate Wilde’s oeuvre within the contexts of Catholicism and Irish politics. His new edited collection, Oscar Wilde, is the most recent in the Irish Writers in Their Time series and follows collections on James Joyce and W. B. Yeats. According to Stan Smith, the general editor, the aim of this “innovative series” is to meet an “urgent need for comprehensive new accounts of Irish writing . . . which combine readability with critical authority and information with insight.” Each volume claims to address the “whole range of a writer’s work . . . setting its vision of the world in biographical context and situating it within the cultural, intellectual, and political currency of the age, in Ireland and the wider world” ii. Given the enormous amount of research produced on Wilde over the past two decades, including significant work devoted to exploring his Irish identity, how urgent is this need, and do the essays in this volume fulfil this ambitious remit?

via Project MUSE – Oscar Wilde ed. by Jarlath Killeen review.