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Episode 43: The Literary World of Oscar Wilde

On today’s episode of The Literary Life, our hosts, Cindy Rollins, Thomas Banks and Angelina Stanford introduce us to Oscar Wilde and our next literary selection, his satirical play The Importance of Being Earnest. They begin with a discussion on the purpose of art and literature in depicting truth without preaching it at us, making so many connections along the way. Thomas gives us a biographical sketch of Oscar Wilde, both his life and work. Angelina expands on the emphasis on respectability and earnestness in Victorian society. Cindy talks about her first experience with reading Oscar Wilde and the accessibility of his plays.

Listen to The Literary Life:

Commonplace Quotes:

For your face I have exchanged all faces.

Philip Larkin

Just as conscience, or the moral sense, recognizes duty; just as the intellect deals with the truth; so is it the part of taste alone to form us of BEAUTY. And Poesy is the handmaiden but of Taste. Yet we would not be misunderstood. This handmaiden is not forbidden to moralize–in her own fashion. She is not forbidden to depict–but to reason and preach, of virtue. As, of this latter, conscience recognizes the obligation, so intellect teaches the expediency, while taste contents herself with displaying the beauty waging war with vice merely on the ground of its inconsistency with fitness, harmony, proportion–in a word with beauty.

Edgar Allan Poe

The diversity of Ruskin’s concerns was not simply the product of a restlessly questioning mind. He was convinced of the vital connections between things, as they bind and blend themselves together. The Intellectual separations that characterize the modern professionalization of knowledge seemed to him corrosive, a denial of what unites different levels of human experience—spiritual and aesthetic, political and scientific, historical and contemporary. His argument is always that knowledge connects. He wants readers to these connections, as clearly and comprehensively, as they can. This is an exercise in humility, since it confirms the imperfections and limitations of our vision, and the mystery of what lies beyond it. But the attempt to see clearly enables us to celebrate what is large than our own lives. His capacity for admiration makes him the most magnanimous of critics. It can also make him the angriest, the he witnesses the betrayal of human history and human potential. Ruskin’s intention is always to teach us to use our eyes, and these  remains the best reason or reading his work. He will show you how to look at the world afresh.

Dinah Birch

E Tenebris (Out of the Shadows)

by Oscar Wilde

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land,
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.’
Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

Book List:

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John

Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

Esther Waters by George Moore

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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You can find Angelina and Thomas at HouseofHumaneLetters.com, on Instagram @angelinastanford, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ANGStanford/

Find Cindy at https://cindyrollins.net, on Instagram @cindyordoamoris and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cindyrollins.net/. Check out Cindy’s own Patreon page also!

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  • hydesamagirl

    To be fair, I think that the practice of Victorians covering piano legs for modesty sake is modern myth. A quick Google search seems to reveal this.

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