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Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture

Michèle Mendelssohn

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Challenges critical assumptions about the way Aestheticism responded to anxieties about nationality, sexuality, identity, influence, originality and morality

This book, the first fully sustained reading of Henry James’s and Oscar Wilde’s relationship, reveals why the antagonisms between both authors are symptomatic of the cultural oppositions within Aestheticism itself. The book also shows how these conflicting energies animated the late nineteenth century’s most exciting transatlantic cultural enterprise.Richly illustrated and historically detailed, this study of James’s and Wilde’s intricate, decades-long relationship brings to light Aestheticism’s truly transatlantic nature through close readings of both authors’ works, as well as nineteenth-century art, periodicals and rare manuscripts. As Mendelssohn shows, both authors were deeply influenced by the visual and decorative arts, and by contemporary artists such as George Du Maurier and James McNeill Whistler. Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Aesthetic Culture offers a nuanced reading of a complex relationship that promises to transform the way in which we imagine late nineteenth-century British and American literary culture.

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About the Author

Michèle Mendelssohn is University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in the English Faculty at Oxford University.

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