Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in English



Faculty Advisor(s)

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner

Subject Categories

Art and Design | Book and Paper | English Language and Literature | Illustration


Few scholars have invested much time studying Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, focusing primarily on their place within the fairy tale genre, their morality, and queer themes latent in the stories. Fewer still examine them as visual, rather than merely literary, texts. Many of these ways of understanding his tales provide valuable insight, convincing interpretations, worthwhile avenues for thought, but by considering the artistic elements of Wilde's work, we can appreciate the cross-fertilization of his abstract, theoretical Aesthetic principles and the tangible objects he produces. Even among the subset of critics who do emphasize the visual aspects of Wilde's books, attention diverts from the fairy tales to other works, particularly Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations for Salome (1894) and Ricketts' success with The Sphinx (1894).

I aim to treat this paper as I would a book: starting from the outside and working inward, looking first at the book as an object, then, lifting the cover and looking at how text and image function together on the page, and finally, by reading the stories themselves. By considering his ideals of decorative harmony present in the book's physicality and in the marriage between illustration and language, we gain a fuller understanding of Wilde's unifying vision.