October 31st, 2012A Picture of Oscar Wildeby Joseph Pearce

A correspondent has sent me his MA thesis on Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. Although the thesis argues convincingly for the Catholic aesthetic of the novel it contains what I consider to be a few problems. I thought that my observations might be of interest to visitors to the Ink Desk. 

Also, and on the subject of Wilde, those who live in the Denver area might want to come and hear me talk on "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde" at the University of Colorado next Monday evening. 

Here are my observations on the Wilde thesis:


You state that there are other interpretations of Wilde's deathbed conversion, in what is presumably an effort to appear to be showing a balanced perspective, particularly in the light of the hostility of many of Wilde's non-Christian admirers to their hero's reception into the Church. You cannot make such a statement without providing evidence. The fact is that only three men were present: one of the men died and the other two wrote independently of what transpired in ways that completely corroborate the other's account. There is no other interpretation. These are the facts. In any event, you can't simply allude to other interpretations without providing the evidence.


You seem to make the error of conflating Huysman's views at the time of his writing of A Rebours with his views at the time he was received into the Church. I suspect that this was not your intention but is simply the result of sloppy wording. You need to state that Huysmans' views at the time of his writing A Rebours had not yet developed into the Catholicism which he would increasingly embrace and espouse in his later works.


You state that Dante did not sit in "judgement". This might be seen as problematic considering that Dante placed real historical characters in Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.


You employ the phrase that Wilde's novel "shows the incompatibility between art and Catholicism for one vital reason". This can't be what you mean to say.


It is not strictly true to say that Basil Hallward laid down his life for Dorian, thereby showing the self-sacrificial love of the Christian. Basil had no idea that Dorian would kill him. In all probability he would not have spoken as he did if he had known that Dorian would respond so murderously.


Other than these rectifiable deficiencies, your thesis argues its case very well.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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  • October 31 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Thanks for posting this. In defense of your poor "correspondent," I suspect that since this is an MA thesis, he's pretty much *required* to adopt that "balance" you critique in the first paragraph.

    I've written about this before elsewhere. Facts can stare us straight in the face, but heaven forbid we should call them anything but "interpretations". And especially in a thesis, he must be "balanced" in his views.

    Right. Poor correspondent.

    p.s. I love it. Dante was not judgmental? My goodness. Perhaps the inferno wasn't really what he called it; perhaps that was a mere interpretation of one view of hell--one among many, of course--we must be balanced in our approach...etc.