The Invention of Oscar Wilde by Nicholas Frankel

The Invention of Oscar Wilde by Nicholas Frankel


‘One should either wear a work of art, or be a work of art’, Wilde once declared.


In The Invention of Oscar Wilde, Nicholas Frankel explores Wilde’s self-creation as a ‘work of art’ and a carefully constructed cultural icon. Frankel takes readers on a journey through Wilde’s inventive, provocative life, from his Irish origins – and their public erasure – through his challenges to traditional concepts of masculinity and male sexuality, to his criminal conviction and final years of exile in France. Along the way, Frankel takes a deep look at Wilde’s writings, paradoxical wit and intellectual convictions, as well as his marriage and affairs with a series of attractive young men, including his great love Lord Alfred Douglas. A compelling account of Wilde’s life and influence on both Victorian Britain and twentieth-century culture.




‘Oscar the man, Oscar the life, Oscar the tragedy, Oscar the standard bearer for art, Irishness, queerness, intellect and wit we all know. But there is Oscar the idea too: the symbol, the representative, the totem, the global icon which looms above the other identities. It is an identity whose construction Wilde himself began, but on which subsequent generations build. There is no one better to unwrap the mystery and challenge of this Oscar than Nicholas Frankel, whose previous work has already established him as one of the world’s foremost Wildeans. This book is such an invaluable and permanent addition to the literature.’ — Stephen Fry

‘Frankel employs close readings of Wilde’s works to reveal the impact of the people, events, and revelations that shaped him throughout his life. Pictures of Wilde, and of contemporary satirical portrayals of him, demonstrate this link between man and image. Even those who already know Wilde’s story by heart will enjoy Frankel’s detailed analysis of the way Wilde influenced, and was influenced by, those around him.’ — Foreword Review

‘this new biography of Wilde takes us on a journey through his inventive, provocative life, taking a deep look at his writings along the way.’ — The Bookseller

‘Gay icon, influencer, playwright, wit: there are many Oscar Wildes, and in this sympathetic and fast-paced biography Nicholas Frankel captures them all. It is the perfect introduction to a writer who not only invented himself but also helped to create the modern world.’ — Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, author of The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland and Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist

‘In this compact yet intricate examination of Wilde’s paradoxical, provocative life, public and private, Nicholas Frankel lauds his subject’s uncompromising revolt against cruel, hypocritical Victorian piety. Frankel’s recognition of the role women played in informing Wilde’s work and fuelling his meteoric rise helps rebalance a life too often examined almost exclusively through his associations with men.’ — Eleanor Fitzsimons, author of Wilde's Women

  • Details

    Imprint: Reaktion Books

    Publication Date: 17 May 2021

    ISBN: 9781789144147

    Pages: 288, 43 illustrations

    Format: Hardback

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