Oscar Wilde: Troubled Genius

Moderator: Michael Wolff
Role of participants: Read assignments. Present a topic (approx. 30 minutes) and lead discussion.  Participate actively in other discussions.
Number of participants (including the moderator): 10-17
Time: Wednesdays, 10 am–noon
Place: Applewood, 1st Floor Meeting Room, One Spencer Drive, Amherst
Parking: Ample parking on site; please park on the outside curve of Spencer Drive, not in the parking lot!

Oscar Wilde is fascinating both for his work and his life.  Best known as a playwright (The Importance of Being Ernest among others), he tried many other genres.  His trial and conviction for homosexuality was a huge scandal at the time.

Wilde (1854-1900) wrote many plays, a novel (The Picture of Dorian Gray), a prison poem (Ballad of Reading Gaol), a plea for understanding (De Profundis), children’s stories (The Happy Prince) and more.  His Salomé became a Strauss opera.  His wit and “decadence” made him a public figure.  We will read what we have time for.  We will also examine his life, his relation to his wife, his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, the tragic last years of his life, and perhaps some of the effect of that life on current attitudes to homosexuality.

Format: Seminar

Resources: To be decided later–probably Penguin Classics where available.  There are some good movies and taped theater performances.

The Moderator: Michael is a native Londoner and has studied Victorian Britain for 60 years.  Previous seminars: George Eliot, Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, and Rudyard Kipling. He met Lord Alfred Douglas in 1944. (Douglas’s father was the 9th Marquess of Queensbury also known for naming the rules of modern boxing.

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