Oscar Wilde

Today  is Oscar Wilde‘s birthday (1854-1900).

Frye was a great admirer of Wilde (see especially Creation and Recreation), and there are any number of quotes that could be cited today, but this one from The Secular Scripture will do:

The beginning of a new kind of criticism is marked by Oscar Wilde’s The Decay of Lying, which explains very lucidly that, as life has no shape and literature has, literature is throwing away its one distinctive quality when it tries to imitate life.  It follows for Wilde that what is called realism does not create but can only record things at a subcreative level:

“M. Zola sits down to give us a picture of the Second Empire.  Who cares for the Second Empire now?  It is out of date.  Life goes faster than Realism, but Romanticism is always in front of life.”

Wilde was clearly the herald of a new age in literature, which would take another century or so to penetrate the awareness of critics.  He was looking forward to a culture which would use mythical and romantic formulas in its literature with great explicitness, making once more the essential discovery about the human imagination, that it is always a form of “lying,” that is, turning away from the descriptive use of language and the correspondence form of truth.  (45-6)

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