The Importance of Being Earnest is Wilde’s most well-known play, yet it has long been the most misunderstood. Far from being a mere absurd farce, the play proves to be subversive as it not only deals strong blows to the Victorian conformism, reversing gender conventions and satirising the foibles of the age, but as it also parodies the literary conventions of the time, at the dawn of modernism.
Wilde the Irishman infiltrates the snobbish British upper-class and builds the figure of Jack Worthing the interloper who invents a doppelganger, Ernest, to reflect on the very notion of identity which paradoxically comes out of multiplicity. Baffling all expectations, the joyful plot triggers a reflexion on the Supremacy of Art over Life, as fictive lovers appear flesh and blood out of diaries, on the Truth of Masks, as elaborate lies turn out to be true, and on the power of comic creativity, all of which are key notions to grasp Wilde’s aesthetic concern.
Providing with close readings of the text to analyse the Wildean poetics, this book will offer a thorough discussion of the play with its historical background, major issues and critical references.
I – The importance of being double
Dandys and androgynies
II – A serious play for trivial people
The satire of the Victorian society
The importance of resisting
The authenticity of the artifice
An Irish play
III – Subverting the well-made play
The parody of melodrama
An Ideal comedy
IV – The supremacy of art
Style is the vital thing
The theatrical mise en abyme
V – The open ending
Back to order?
Being Ernest…At last!
Autour de l'auteur
Élodie Degroisse, specialized in Irish literature, is a professor of Anglophone literature, civilization and translation in Hypokhâgne in Arras and is a member of the CECILLE research team at Lille III University. She also gives courses at Paris-Sorbonne University and is the author of a PhD thesis entitled Présences paradoxales chez Oscar Wilde et Samuel Beckett.