Submission Title

Subtle Knives and Leaden Hearts: The Search for Unity in Text, Image, and Self in Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales

Location

Jereld R. Nicholson Library: Austin Reading Room

Subject Area

English: Literature

Description

Although he worked in the literary arts, Oscar Wilde lauded the importance of the decorative arts in cultivating personality, stating in “The Critic as Artist” that “The art that is frankly decorative is the art to live with . . . [and] not merely prepares the soul for the reception of true imaginative work, but develops in it that sense of form which is the basis of creative no less than of critical achievement.” Espousing such a belief, one can hardly wonder that he should strive to make his books as beautiful in appearance as in prose. His efforts to unify the design, the illustrations, and the texts in his volumes of fairy tales, The Happy Prince and A House of Pomegranates, demonstrate this ideal, as well as achieving visually what he holds as the noblest personal goal: “the mode of existence in which the soul and body are one and indivisible.” Wilde’s desire for at-one-ness permeated his life and work, his writing and principles of design, and by looking at these things together in these two works we enact Wilde’s unifying vision.

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Subtle Knives and Leaden Hearts: The Search for Unity in Text, Image, and Self in Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales

Jereld R. Nicholson Library: Austin Reading Room

Although he worked in the literary arts, Oscar Wilde lauded the importance of the decorative arts in cultivating personality, stating in “The Critic as Artist” that “The art that is frankly decorative is the art to live with . . . [and] not merely prepares the soul for the reception of true imaginative work, but develops in it that sense of form which is the basis of creative no less than of critical achievement.” Espousing such a belief, one can hardly wonder that he should strive to make his books as beautiful in appearance as in prose. His efforts to unify the design, the illustrations, and the texts in his volumes of fairy tales, The Happy Prince and A House of Pomegranates, demonstrate this ideal, as well as achieving visually what he holds as the noblest personal goal: “the mode of existence in which the soul and body are one and indivisible.” Wilde’s desire for at-one-ness permeated his life and work, his writing and principles of design, and by looking at these things together in these two works we enact Wilde’s unifying vision.