A Preface to Oscar Wilde provides a detailed study of the cultural, personal and political influences that shaped Wilde's writing. The study concentrates primarily on his fiction, critical dialogues and plays that were published between 1890 and 1895, and detailed accounts of Wilde's lesser known works such as his poetry, journalism and letters are also presented. The first section places his work in a variety of cultural contexts: Wilde's family life and his Irish inheritance are examined, the impact of his sexuality on his writing and reputation is considered, and a description is provided of how Wilde became a legendary figure in the arts. Major innovations and successes, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, Salome and The Importance of Being Earnest are related to avant garde movements of their day such as aestheticism, decadence, and symbolism. Reference sections provide supporting material such as a Wilde chronology, a glossary of terms and a bibliography for further study.

Anne Varty sets out in this study to bring to life the work of Wilde, and to make his writing accessible to readers who are unfamiliar with his achievements. In so doing, she confronts the ethical drive of his work, and demonstrates the coherent evolution of his work from the aestheticism of the early poetry, through the sophisticated handling of theatre, to the dark self-scrutiny of autobiography.

The comprehensive and accessible approach makes this a useful reference work to all who are studying Oscar Wilde, both at A Level and undergraduate level. The content will also appeal to the general reader who is seeking to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Wilde's work.

part 1|42 pages

The Writer and His Setting

chapter 1|30 pages

Biographical and historical context

part 2|30 pages

Aesthetic and Political Philosophy

chapter 2|18 pages

Critical writings

chapter 3|10 pages

Theatre practice and innovation

part 3|145 pages

Critical Survey

chapter 4|12 pages


chapter 5|24 pages

Short fiction

chapter 6|20 pages

The Picture of Dorian Gray

chapter 7|25 pages

Salome, Salome, and symbolist theatre

chapter 8|49 pages

The social comedies

chapter 9|11 pages


part 4|25 pages

Reference Section

chapter |10 pages

Wilde and his circle

chapter |7 pages


chapter |6 pages

Further reading