Between Music and Poetry: Music transmitting knowledge in the poems and short stories of Oscar Wilde

Vries, de, K., 12-May-2018.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

In “The Critic as Artist”, Wilde makes a clear interdisciplinary claim: “what is true about music is true about all the arts”. The statement fits a pattern in his essays of holding up music as an interarts discourse, allowing its influence to seep into other artistic disciplines and thus blurring disciplinary boundaries. Wilde’s late Victorian essay was hardly the first articulation of this permeability; as he indirectly acknowledges in an earlier essay, “The Decay of Lying”, Wilde follows Pater’s famous maxim from The Renaissance, that “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”; and Pater, in turn, was building on observations of a broader nineteenth-century trend to use a musical model in envisioning artistic endeavours - a vein of interdisciplinary enquiry that has flourished in recent years with, to name a few, Sophie Fuller’s The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction, Bennett Zon’s “"Loathsome London": Ruskin, Morris, and Henry Davey's History of English Music”, Ruth Solie’s Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations, and Derek Scott’s “The Sexual Politics of Victorian Musical Aesthetics”.
However, while these and other sources have provided valuable insight into a general Victorian trend, exploration of the implication of these developments for the works of Wilde has been less rich. Yet it is clear that interdisciplinary approaches to art are central to Wilde’s literary thinking, as I have suggested in my article “Intertextuality and intermediality in Oscar Wilde’s Salome” - music being a prime example. As this paper will argue, Wilde makes use of music, both as a theme and as a method, to convey meaning in his works. Not just the appearance of music, but also the musicality of language itself, appears in the works to guide the reader to specific kinds of readings; thus, Wilde offers not simply to invite a literary reading, but a reading of the text as musical performance in itself, and as interpretive strategy for the work. This highlights Wilde’s contribution to late Victorian thinking about art as transcending individual disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12-May-2018
EventVictorian Interdisciplinarity International Conference 2018 - Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 12-May-2018 → …


ConferenceVictorian Interdisciplinarity International Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleVictorian Interdisciplinarity
CountryUnited Kingdom
Period12/05/2018 → …


Victorian Interdisciplinarity International Conference 2018

12/05/2018 → …

Durham, United Kingdom

Event: Conference

ID: 99974784