Taking its cue from Baudelaire’s important essay "The Painter of Modern Life," in which Baudelaire imagines the modern artist as a "man of the world," this collection of essays presents Oscar Wilde as a "man of the world" who eschewed provincial concerns, cultural conventions, and narrow national interests in favor of the wider world and other worlds—both real and imaginary, geographical and historical, physical and intellectual—which provided alternative sites for exploration and experience, often including alternative gender expression or sexual alterity. Wilde had an unlimited curiosity and a cosmopolitan spirit of inquiry that traveled widely across borders, ranging freely over space and time. He entered easily and wholly into other countries, other cultures, other national literatures, other periods, other mythologies, other religions, other disciplines, and other modes of representation, and was able to fully inhabit and navigate them, quickly apprehending the conventions by which they operate.
The fourteen essays in this volume offer fresh critical-theoretical and historical perspectives not just on key connections and aspects of Wilde’s oeuvre itself, but on the development of Wilde’s remarkable worldliness in dialogue with many other worlds: contemporary developments in art, science and culture, as well as with other national literatures and cultures. Perhaps as a direct result of this cosmopolitan spirit, Wilde and Wilde’s works have been taken up across the globe, as the essays on Wilde’s reception in India, Japan and Hollywood illustrate. Many of the essays gathered here are based on groundbreaking archival research, including some never-seen-before illustrations. Together, they have the potential to open up important new comparative, transnational, and historical perspectives on Wilde that can shape and sharpen our future understanding of his work and impact.