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English PGR Seminar Series: Nick Freeman – Thursday 18 May 2017
18th May 2017 @ 5:15 pm - 7:15 pmFree
You are warmly invited to the final English Postgraduate Research Seminar of 2016/17 with Nick Freeman, of Loughborough University. The event takes place on Thursday 18 May at 5.15pm in the Lock Keeper’s Cottage, Mile End campus. All are welcome.
Nick Freeman is Reader in Late-Victorian Literature at Loughborough University. He has published widely on the literature and culture of the fin de siècle, and is the author of 1895: Drama, Disaster and Disgrace in Late Victorian Britain and a recent edition of Arthur Symons’ Spiritual Adventures.
‘A middle-class and mediocre book’:
Posing, Parody and the Wilde Style, 1894-1904
In September 1894, literary London was greatly amused by an anonymously-published novella, The Green Carnation, a satirical broadside aimed squarely at Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, and the decadent attitudes they were thought to inculcate. Who was responsible for such a work? Alfred Austin? Ada Leverson? Marie Corelli? The manufacturers of Bovril? Could it even be the work of the masterful self-publicist Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, caricaturing himself as the preposterous aesthete, Esmé Amarinth?
On 1 October 1894, Wilde wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette announcing that he had ‘invented that magnificent flower’ the green carnation, but had nothing to do with that ‘middle-class and mediocre book that usurps its strangely beautiful name’. The author was actually a young novelist and music critic called Robert Hichens, a friend of Wilde and Douglas, but a man whose relationship with their artistic and sexual attitudes was profoundly ambivalent. Was The Green Carnation satire or homage? How could one be distinguished from the other?
This talk considers the controversy surrounding The Green Carnation, but its main focus is the book’s deployment of a particular comic style, one strongly identified with Wilde but which surprisingly did not become taboo after his downfall in May 1895. In particular, it looks at the ways in which Wilde’s epigrammatic flourishes were at once ridiculed by the conservative humourists of Punch and deployed more subversively by writers such as Saki and Max Beerbohm.