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Ethics And Ethics In Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Decent Essays
Introduction (provisional outline)
The picture of Oscar Wilde is still fuzzy and incomplete but in the popular imagination, he remains an iconic, larger-than-life figure - largely because of his public persona and modus vivendi: He was a flamboyant dandy and a brilliant wit; a refined, decadent aes-thete. Professionally, he produced excellent prose pieces and composed arguably only mediocre poetry and he vociferously proposed unconventional theories about art and aesthetics. Yet, Wilde continues to be shrouded in this heavy fog of mystery. He is above all an inscrutable enigma. While he may at times give away the real and authen-tic nature of his complex self, at other times this self cunningly conceals itself behind a mask. In this sense, Wilde knew exactly how to transcend history with a strange, shad-owy presence that will
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Before examining this connection more closely, however, it is appropriate to consider the context in which the novel was received when it came out in a serialised version in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. To provide a solid and sound foundation the second section will subsequently address Wilde’s thoughts about the spheres of ethics and aesthetics in his theoretical writings, primarily in the anthology Intentions. In the third and last part, his theories are determinedly applied to relevant passages from Dorian Gray endeavouring to discover how the ethical and the aesthetic operate within the novel. According to Wilde: “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written” (Wilde 1999: 17). Are these statements valid criteria for evaluating works of art? Does Wilde in saying this refute the assertion that art possesses and provides a moral
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