Modernist Aesthetics and Consumer Culture in the Writings of Oscar Wilde
Routledge – 2007 – 162 pages
Oscar Wilde was a consumer modernist. His modernist aesthetics drove him into the heart of the mass culture industries of 1890s London, particularly the journalism and popular theatre industries.
Wilde was extremely active in these industries: as a journalist at the Pall Mall Gazette; as magazine editor of the Women’s World; as commentator on dress and design through both of these; and finally as a fabulously popular playwright.
Because of his desire to impact a mass audience, the primary elements of Wilde’s consumer aesthetic were superficial ornament and ephemeral public image – both of which he linked to the theatrical. This concern with the surface and with the ephemeral was, ironically, a foundational element of what became twentieth-century modernism – thus we can call Wilde’s aesthetic a consumer modernism, a root and branch of modernism that was largely erased.
"This book portrays playwright Wilde as a consumer modernist, working in the very heart of 1890s London's mass-culture industry." -- Columbia College Today, March/April 2008
"…this excellent reinterpretation of Oscar Wilde’s aesthetic in relation to consumer and mass culture most definitely rejuvenates Wilde studies with a new trajectory of exploration not only for literary critics, but also for critics and researchers who study fashion, art and consumer culture from the purviews of economics, history, feminism, and sociology."
-- Rocky Mountain Review, Fall 2008
"I think that this book makes a good contribution to Wilde scholarship in general and is especially useful in examining Wilde's earlier writings."--English Literature in Transition, 2010
Paul L. Fortunato is Assistant Professor at the University of Houston, Downtown, US.