ISBN : 9780199535064
New to this Edition:
'Wilde did not converse - he told tales.'
Oscar Wilde was already famous as a brilliant wit and raconteur when he first began to publish his short stories in the late 1880s. They have never lacked readers and admirers, George Orwell and W. B. Yeats among them. The stories give free rein to Wilde's originality, literary skill, and sophistication. They include poignant fairy-tales such as 'The Happy Prince' and 'The Selfish Giant', and the extravagant comedy and social observation of 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime' and 'The Canterville Ghost'. They also encompass the daring narrative experiments of 'The Portrait of Mr. W. H.', Wilde's fictional investigation into the identity of the dedicatee of Shakespeare's sonnets, and the 'Poems in Prose', based on the Gospel stories.
This edition demonstrates the centrality of Wilde's shorter fiction in his literary career, and his continuing development and experimentation with the short story format. Combining myth, romance, and irony, Wilde's stories enthral and challenge the reader.
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"I defy anyone to read them and be unmoved." - Emily Labram, The Observer
Lord Arthur Savile's Crime
The Sphinx without a Secret
The Canterville Ghost
The Happy Prince
The Nightingale and the Rose
The Selfish Giant
The Devoted Friend
The Remarkable Rocket
The Portrait of Mr. W. H.
The Young King
The Birthday of the Infanta
The Fisherman and his Soul
Poems in Prose
The Doer of Good
The House of Judgment
The Teacher of Wisdom
From the Extended Version of 'The Portrait of Mr. W. H.' (1921)
Oscar Wilde was already famous as a brilliant wit and raconteur when he first began to publish his short stories in the late 1880s. They have never lacked readers and admirers, George Orwell and W. B. Yeats among them. The stories give free rein to Wilde’s originality, literary skill, and sophistication. They include poignant fairy-tales such as “The Happy Prince” and “The Selfish Giant”, and the extravagant comedy and social observation of “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” and “The Canterville Ghost”. They also encompass the daring narrative experiments of “The Portrait of Mr. W. H.”, Wilde’s fictional investigation into the identity of the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the “Poems in Prose”, based on the Gospel stories.
In this audio guide to Wilde’s short stories, John Sloan of Harris Manchester College, Oxford introduces some of the themes and concerns that preoccupied Wilde the short story writer. Click on the links to listen to the clips.
A “Jester at the Court of English Literature”?
Though perhaps better known for his plays and his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) published three collections of short stories during his lifetime.
John Sloan introduces Oscar Wilde’s literary career and the place of the short story within it [4:58]
Wilde’s short stories have tended to attract less attention than his other writing, but a “rediscovery” of Wilde’s Irishness has led critics to re-examine them and reflect on how Wilde would develop his stories from tales he would tell to his friends and admirers.
A reconsideration of Wilde’s short fiction [4:19]
“Many secrets, many meanings”
What attracted Wilde to fairy tale and myth? What was Wilde’s response to the models in these genres provided by Hans Christian Andersen?
As John Sloan makes clear here, Wilde was was seeking to do something quite different from his Danish predecessor [5:14]
Wilde strenuously resisted biographical readings of his work and spoke of his writing having “many secrets and many meanings”. Yet readers still seek encoded homosexual meanings in his work.
John Sloan explains why this may be one possible interpretation, but should not be seen as the only one [7:09]
The suffering Christ-figure is a recurrent one in Wilde’s short stories.
What attracted Wilde to portray Christ in this way? [1:39]
Reading Wilde today
Wilde’s original readers were drawn to his tales for their treatment of topical themes. So why read him today?
As John Sloan argues here, Wilde’s short fiction has a continuing appeal for its comic subversion of expectation and its refusal to package meaning up in tidy conclusions [3:27]