Making Oscar Wilde
Mansfield Tutorial Fellow in English Professor Michèle Mendelssohn releases her latest book Making Oscar Wilde.
Making Oscar Wilde, a new book by Mansfield Fellow Professor Michèle Mendelssohn, reveals the untold story of a young Oscar Wildes career in Victorian England and post-Civil War America. Recognised as an inspired and charismatic thinker ahead of his time, Wilde’s works are beloved around the world. But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life itself denied him.
Michèle tells us “my book tells the story of a local Irish eccentric called Oscar who became an international celebrity called Wilde. Today, he is one of English literature's most famous authors. Known around the world as Saint Oscar, he is the beloved patron saint of all things witty, decadent and over the top. With every passing year, his stature as a larger-than-life gay icon seems to grow.”
“History can be like a jack-in-the box: sometimes it shocks us by intruding on the present and demanding that we reexamine the past we think we know.”
"Making Oscar Wilde tells two stories. One is a revisionist history of Wilde’s early life and rise to fame. You’ll see up close the moments where everything fell to pieces as well as how he put them back together in a new way, making him a modern celebrity along the way. But as big as Wilde’s ambitions were, he was a cog in the wheels of an even greater machine. So this book’s second story is an intimate history of two of the century’s most powerful globalizing mechanisms – America’s ethnic melting pot and Britain’s imperial enterprise.”
This biography is the first to tell the story of the anti-Irish racism that shaped Wilde’s career by using newly discovered ephemera, advertising media and theatre history alongside genealogical data.
Making Oscar Wilde links together Irish, American and British culture and politics through literature, advertising, pop culture, theatre, and racial ideologies. The book also dramatically portrays the devastating setbacks he suffered because of the politics of race and anti-Irish culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
A combination of biography, cultural history and story-telling, Michèle Mendelssohn tells the story of a literary icon on an adventure to make his name against the backdrop of nineteenth century Ireland, Britain and America. The result is a gripping account of Wilde's tumultuous rise, fall, and resurrection.