Making Oscar Wilde
Michèle Mendelssohn (Author)
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DescriptionWitty, inspiring, and charismatic, Oscar Wilde is one of the Greats of English literature. Today, his plays and stories are beloved around the world. But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life denied him. Making Oscar Wilde reveals the untold story of young Oscar's career in Victorian England and post-Civil War America. Set on two continents, this book tracks a larger-than-life hero on an unforgettable adventure to make his name and gain international acclaim. 'Success is a science, ' Wilde believed, 'if you have the conditions, you get the result.' Combining new evidence and gripping cultural history, Michèle Mendelssohn dramatizes Wilde's rise, fall, and resurrection as part of a spectacular transatlantic pageant. With superb style and an instinct for story-telling, she brings to life the charming young Irishman who set out to captivate the United States and Britain with his words and ended up conquering the world. Following the twists and turns of Wilde's journey, Mendelssohn vividly depicts sensation-hungry Victorian journalism and popular entertainment alongside racial controversies, sex scandals, and the growth of Irish nationalism. This ground-breaking revisionist history shows how Wilde's tumultuous early life embodies the story of the Victorian era as it tottered towards modernity. Riveting and original, Making Oscar Wilde is a masterful account of a life like no other.
Oxford University Press, USA
July 01, 2018
5.7 X 8.5 X 1.2 inches | 1.23 pounds
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About the Author
Michèle Mendelssohn, Associate Professor of English, Mansfield College, Oxford Michèle Mendelssohn is a literary critic and cultural historian. She is Associate Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, earned her doctorate from Cambridge University, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University. Mendelssohn's previous books include Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Aesthetic Culture and two co-edited collections of literary criticism, Alan Hollinghurst and Late Victorian Into Modern (shortlisted for the 2017 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize). She has published in The New York Times, The Guardian, African American Review, Journal of American Studies, Nineteenth Century Literature, and Victorian Literature and Culture.
"There is much to ponder in Mendelssohn's analysis." -- Publishers Weekly
"One of the most devastating, complex and presently political literary biographies I've ever read." -- Eileen Myles, poet, novelist, performer, and art journalist
"Michele Mendelssohn's Making Oscar Wilde is a fresh, exciting and illuminating study of the construction of celebrity and reputation. Looking at Wilde's trip to the United States in 1882, Mendelssohn shows both how stereotypes of the wild Irish immigrant and the minstrel show, and the promotional strategies of Wilde and his tour manager, made him a controversial star. The story of St. Oscar will never be the same." -- Elaine Showalter
"Michele Mendelssohn's vividly written, consistently illuminating, and lavishly illustrated book is full of surprises, above all in showing how Wilde's Irishness played into the story of race relations in post-Civil War America." -- Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
"A scholastic triumph, this highly original book rewrites the story of Oscar's tour of America with new, vivid detail, from fresh, unmined sources. Presenting the young Wilde caught in up a complex web of social and racial prejudices, Mendelssohn not only offers us a surprising view of Oscar through the lens of 19th [century] America, but refocuses the young Wilde for a new generation." -- Franny Moyle
"An original, meticulously-researched and beautifully-paced account of how a modern writer invented himself, and was invented, as an international artist-celebrity. He made his world, but not in conditions of his own choosing. This stylish meditation on the mysteries of identity illustrates Wilde's belief that the best way to intensify a personality is to multiply it." -- Declan Kiberd, author of Ulysses and Us
"Mendelssohn offers a solid introduction to Wilde... [This] well-told account paints an unsettling picture of post-Civil War America's racism and xenophobia."--Library Journal
"Mendelssohn's contribution to Wilde's legacy is her fresh look at the American tour, providing social and cultural context... A familiar biography embedded in a lively cultural history."--Kirkus
"Making Oscar Wilde succeeds commendably at what it sets out to do: offering a vivid, intelligent look at Victorian celebrity culture through the rise to fame of one of its brightest stars."--New York Journal of Books
"[An] enlightening and provocative study... Mendelssohn's is the first Wilde biography to assert the centrality of American culture to his formation as a thinker, an artist, a 'spectacle-maker, ' and ultimately as an Irishman... By turning her archival eye to historical representations of race and ethnicity, Mendelssohn also manages to give us an Oscar Wilde for our time."--Literary Review of Canada
"Provocative... Mendelssohn's detailed examination--geared more to the devout Wildephile than to the casual fan--is compelling."--Washington Post
"[A] fascinating account of Wilde's early career."--New Yorker
"[An] astonishing demonstration that just when you thought you knew everything about the life of Oscar Wilde, there's more."--Gay & Lesbian Review
"The writing is compelling and easy to follow, the tone light, the focus unusual and enlightening."--Choice Reviews
"You may not think there is new stuff to learn about Oscar Wilde, but there is--as this book proves. Mich�le Mendelssohn has succeeded in throwing new light on Wilde's remarkable American lecture tour. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, this is a valuable addition to Wildean scholarship."--- Gyles Brandreth, President of the Oscar Wilde Society and author of The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries
"A stylish account of [Wilde's] tumultuous rise, fall and resurrection... a hugely important and enjoyable book."-- Mal Rogers, Irish Post
"Mendelssohn's remarkable book focuses on the American year... it uncovers material missed by lengthier biographies, even Richard Ellmann's, and conveys the excitement of real research and discovery."--John Carey, Sunday Times (UK)
"A retelling of Wilde's American adventure that genuinely makes you rethink vital elements of his life and work ... Mendelssohn's research is prodigious: she has tapped sources previously unavailable to other scholars."--Rachel Cooke, The Observer (UK)
"A fascinating account of how young Wilde's flair for self-promotion aligned with the birth of celebrity culture during the age of Barnum."--Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture
"Now that America has come to seem so unsettled and so strange, Mich�le Mendelssohn's Making Oscar Wilde help us to become more alarmed."--Colm T�ib�n, The Guardian
"An extraordinary new take on Wilde. Even those who claim to know him intimately will be astonished and enthralled by Mendelssohn's fresh perspective on his multifaceted life."
--Eleanor Fitzsimons, The Irish Times
"An astonishing window into Wilde's American flaneuring, adding to what even extreme Oscar-obsessives like me thought they knew."--Ben Shields, Paris Review
"Both tragic and touching, Mendelssohn has penned a biography worthy of its subject.. She takes the reader behind the scenes of Victorian England and post-Civil War America to reveal a secret self-creation that would make modern internet influencers turn green with envy."
--The Advocate, "The Best Books We Read in 2018"
"Her innovative approach and exploration of unsuspected territory has yielded rich results, illuminating new aspects of Wilde's life and afterlife... [A] lively, original and valuable work."--America Magazine