chapter
6 Pages

It is only by language that we rise above them, or above each

Wilde' is now a pop-cultural icon, a multiform signifier of youth, rebelliousness, individualism, sexual freedom, modernity. Wilde recognized in the attitude of Charles Baudelaire's mid-nineteenth-century dandyism a radical potential which ran counter to its declared politics. Michael Bracewell's argues that Wilde has passed the baton to David Bowie: 'English dandyism reached an apotheosis with Bowie, and dandyism, in England, had always suggested the suburban outsider's subtle revenge on home and high society alike - a mask behind which to advance'. Wilde explores both the radical potential of style, and acknowledges its opposite. Perhaps more importantly, Wilde is here recognizing that style is defined not by essence, or by some approximation to an absolute aesthetic standard, but by its function. It is in the performance and constant renewal of that critical function, in turning the real, the inevitable and the natural into their opposites, that Wilde Style can be liberating, subversive and sustaining.