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Oscar Wilde and the Plaistow Matricide: Competing Critiques of Influence in the Formation of Late-Victorian Masculinities

Burrow, Merrick (2012) Oscar Wilde and the Plaistow Matricide: Competing Critiques of Influence in the Formation of Late-Victorian Masculinities. Culture, Society and Masculinities, 4 (2). pp. 133-147. ISSN 1941-5583

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Abstract

This paper examines the ways in which the concept of ‘pernicious influence’ was mobilized in late-Victorian periodical publications to reinforce a normative conception of masculinity through powerful discourses on the relationship between textual consumption and identity. Discussion of the threat posed by ‘penny dreadfuls’ drew not only on widely held assumptions regarding the criminalizing influence of popular fiction, exemplified by the case of Robert Coombes, but also made connections with the supposedly corrupting effeminacy of the ‘degenerate’ intellectual, with the trials of Oscar Wilde as the main focus. The paper goes on to explore Wilde’s engagement with the concept of influence across a wide range of his writings, in the course of which he developed an alternative critique of all influence as a perversion of self-realization. This relates in some respects to existing strands of critical debate relating to Wilde’s sexuality. However, the current essay seeks to frame Wilde’s contribution in terms of late-Victorian debates on the cultural significance of reading practices and in relation to Wilde’s own critique of influence, by means of which he contested many of the assumptions underpinning bourgeois conceptions of normative masculinity.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Merrick Burrow
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2012 13:23
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2015 04:10
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/16177

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