Oscar Wilde

A discussion of Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality.

The paper examines the issue of the author Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality, how it was portrayed in his writings, accepted by society, and how he was eventually taken to court and found guilty of gross indecency. It looks at how homosexuality was not “obvious” to Victorian society and Wilde often engaged with a kind of cat and mouse game with his reading public as a closeted homosexual author. Famously, the word “earnest” was slang in many circles for homosexuality and queerness and it reviews his play “The Importance of Being Earnest” as a heterosexual comedy of manners.
“Throughout both of his trials, Wilde adopts a kind of insouciant, provocative pose that seems, to the modern eyes, to be a “typical” portrait of a flamboyant male homosexual. Because Oscar Wilde’s artistic medium has become synonymous with such a posture it is difficult to re-read history with open eyes. However, the answer as to why Wilde thought he could get away with it, would seem to be found, not so much in the actual, textual evidence of either the trials or Wilde’s later works during and after his imprisonment. Rather it is the attitude by which sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, was viewed by Wilde’s Victorian reading public.”