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2. Artistic and Literary Commitments (1880-1950)
I/ Late-nineteenth Literary Commitments

Aesthetics and Politics: The Afterlives of Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)

Xavier GIUDICELLI

Résumés

Oscar Wilde est d’ordinaire considéré comme la figure emblématique de l’esthétisme et de l’art pour l’art, et donc de l’autonomie des arts à la fin du XIXe siècle. C’est pourquoi L’Âme de l’homme sous le socialisme, son essai le plus ouvertement politique, publié dans la Fortnightly Review de février 1891, a souvent étonné les critiques et a donné lieu à des réactions contradictoires. Cet article montre la manière dont L’Âme de l’homme sous le socialisme articule politique et esthétique : il étudie le devenir de cet essai en retraçant son histoire éditoriale et il analyse certaines des lectures et des révisions qu’il a suscitées, en particulier l’usage politique qui en a été fait dans le contexte de la théorie queer en Grande-Bretagne. L’objet de ce travail est de souligner la manière dont l’essai de Wilde reflète et questionne la difficile négociation entre les mots et les actes, entre esthétique et politique, art et engagement, et soulève ainsi des questions qui n’ont rien perdu aujourd’hui de leur pertinence.

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1Oscar Wilde is traditionally regarded as the emblematic figure of Aestheticism and Art for Art’s sake, epitomising the growing autonomy of the arts in late nineteenth-century Britain. The Soul of Man under Socialism, his most overtly political essay, published in The Fornightly Review in February 1891, has thus often baffled critics and elicited contradictory and sometimes disdainful responses. The Soul of Man under Socialism is indeed a surprising and slippery text, whose nature and value is difficult to ascertain. Josephine M. Guy asserts that in no way can The Soul of Man under Socialism be called a political essay: “[…] far from being a political essay, [it] is its very antithesis, for it dissolves the grounds of both political debate and political action” (Guy 77). According to Jonathan Dollimore, on the other hand, Wilde’s essay presents the reader with “a radical socialist programme” (Dollimore 7).

2One possible way of solving the problem and of reading The Soul of Man under Socialism is to dismiss it as a mere playful variation upon such notions as socialism, individualism or democracy and to regard it as a flippant response to contemporary debates in late Victorian Britain. Another way of looking at this essay is to take it seriously, so to speak, and to consider it as an attempt to hold in tension aesthetics and politics through the logic of paradox. I would argue that Wilde’s essay reflects and problematizes the uneasy negotiation between words and action, aesthetics and politics, art and commitment, at the end of the nineteenth century and beyond.

  • 1 It is worth recalling that movements such as aestheticism or decadence, to which Wilde is associate (...)
  • 2 L’Âme humaine et le socialisme. Trans. Maxime Shelledy. Paris: Aux Forges de Vulcain, 2010; L’Âme h (...)

3Rather than go back into the past and work on the sources of Wilde’s essay—a highly personal synthesis of such various influences as George Bernard Shaw, William Morris and Walter Pater, testifying to Wilde’s great erudition—,1 I propose, in order to assess the significance of The Soul of Man under Socialism, to look at its afterlives. In France, no fewer than three single-volume editions of Wilde’s essay have been printed over the last few years,2 which, beyond the commercial viability of publishing a short book by a well-known, slightly risqué author, suggests that the text might still have some relevance today. I shall first return to the essay itself to show how it articulates politics and aesthetics. This will lead me to demonstrate how this is reverberated in the history of this essay in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by examining some of the features of its publishing history in Europe. I shall lastly focus on some of the readings and reinterpretations that Wilde’s essay has prompted in the academic field and more specifically on the political uses of this essay in the context of British queer theory and of Jonathan Dollimore’s Sexual Dissidence in particular.

1. The Soul of Man under Socialism: Articulating Politics and Aesthetics

  • 3 This idea is frequently to be found in Wilde’s works. For instance, in The Importance of Being Earn (...)

4The Soul of Man under Socialism is structured around a series of paradoxical statements and performs a transvaluation of the meaning of words. Wilde’s first reversal of perspectives consists in asserting that altruism and philanthropy are noxious in that they help to maintain poverty.3 He uses oxymorons to convey his message:

  • 4 Unless otherwise specified, the references to The Soul of Man under Socialism are to the version of (...)

The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. (The Soul of Man 1174, italics mine).4

5As a corollary to this first axiom, private property should be abolished, as it is the source of social inequalities and hinders the development of the individual (1178). Marriage should also get banned, in that it is another restriction of individual freedom (1181). Disobedience and rebellion are extolled and presented as virtues, a counter-reading of Genesis, with the word “original virtue” in Wilde’s text echoing the notion of “original sin”: “Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and rebellion.” (1176, italics mine) The deserving, “virtuous” poor (1176), namely those who do not rebel against their condition, are thus blameworthy.

6The second main paradox upon which the text hinges is that socialism will lead to individualism (1175). The notion of individualism is redefined positively and idiosyncratically as the true realisation of one’s personality. In Wilde’s perspective, Jesus advocates personal development, individualism in the Wildean sense, and is in that sense a socialist. Possibly taking his cue from Renan’s 1863 Vie de Jésus (see Gattégno 1787), Wilde rewrites the Gospels, repeatedly using direct speech to offer a personal reading of the message of Jesus Christ: What Jesus meant was this. He said to man, ‘You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things.’” (The Soul of Man 1180)

7Close in that respect to anarchism, Wilde favours the abolition of all forms of authority (“The State must give up all idea of government”, 1181), including that exerted by the people. Democracy is thus, according to him, the worst form of tyranny:

There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People.” (1193)

8It is a form of elitist socialism that Wilde defends in The Soul of Man under Socialism and he is closer to Mallarmé’s “Hérésies artistiques: l’Art pour Tous (Artistic heresiesArt for All” [1862]) than to Karl Marx’s Kapital.

9The second part of the essay is devoted to the place and role of the artist in the “utopia” imagined by Wilde (“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at”, 1184). Art is the highest form of individualism as defined by Wilde. It is presented as a “disturbing force” (1186), disrupting doxa. The artist must be entirely free and not the slave of any external authority, above all not that of public opinion (1184). The essay takes on a pro domo sua dimension here, as the qualifiers Wilde intends to destabilize are those that were used to criticise his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, published the previous year in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and whose reviews were particularly scathing. For instance, an anonymous review published in The Daily Chronicle on June 30, 1890 describes the novel as “a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Décadents—a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction” (quoted in The Picture of Dorian Gray 368). Playing out the logic of paradox and going on with the transvaluation of the meaning of words, Wilde redefines the terms “immoral” to signify true to life (and hence shocking for the public) and “unhealthy” to mean beautiful and expressing the artist’s temperament:

When [the public] say a work is grossly unintelligible, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is new; when they describe a work as grossly immoral, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is true. (The Soul of Man 1186)

10Similarly, Wilde destabilizes the opposition between nature and artifice: sartorial eccentricity is in fact natural and affectation is redefined as conformity:

A man is called affected, nowadays, if he dresses as he likes to dress. But in doing that he is acting in a perfectly natural manner. Affectation, in such matters, consists in dressing according to the views of one’s neighbour, whose views, as they are the view of the majority, will probably be extremely stupid.” (1194)

11The Soul of Man under Socialism is a text shot through with contradictions, epitomised by such oxymorons as an individualistic socialism or an elitist socialism. It is an attempt to articulate politics and aesthetics that coheres within the utopian space of the essay and through acrobatic paradoxes. Wilde’s reversal of perspectives also contributes to destabilizing preconceived notions and unsettling certainties, thus maybe offering an example of dissident rhetoric. In 1892, John Barlas, a poet, revolutionary socialist and self-declared anarchist (see Cohen), defined Wilde as “a revolutionist” and explained his methods thus:

He does not use dynamite but the dagger—a dagger whose hilt is crusted with flaming jewels, whose point drips with the poison of the Borgias. That dagger is the paradox. No weapon could be more terrible. […] With a sudden flash of wit he exposes to our startled eyes the sheer cliff-like wall of the rift that has opened out, as if by a silent earthquake, between our moral belief and the belief of our fathers. That fissure is the intellectual revolution. (Barlas 11)

12In his early biography, Sherard writes that Wilde’s essay was popular in Central and Eastern Europe and among revolutionary groups in the United States (129-132) whilst it seems to have had very little echo among British socialists (Woodcock 155) who probably deemed it inconsequential. This reflects the uncertainty as to how one should read The Soul of Man under Socialism and the theories it propounds, as a mere demonstration of Wilde’s verbal skills without much substance, or, at the other end of the spectrum, as a revolutionary, politically charged text. That uncertainty also surfaces when looking at the publishing history of Wilde’s essay in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

2. From Text to Book: some Features of the Publishing History of The Soul of Man under Socialism

  • 5 In France and in Belgium, The Soul of Man under Socialism has repeatedly been retranslated (Paul Gr (...)

13The Soul of Man under Socialism has been published countless times in the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and has been translated into various languages, including Yiddish (Di Menshlikhe neshome in a sotsyalisṭisher gezelshafṭ fun Osḳar Ṿeyld [The Soul of Man in a Socialist Society by Oscar Wilde], trans. M. Ṿarshe, 1910) and Esperanto (Homo animo sub socialismo [The Soul of Man under socialism], trans. Kris Long, 1978).5 I have focused my research on the books containing only The Soul of Man under Socialism (or in which the essay is mentioned in the title) that have been published in Europe since 1891. I have been attentive to some of the elements pertaining to the paratext, that “fringe of the printed text which in reality controls one’s whole reading of the text” (Lejeune 45, quoted by Genette 20)—such as the titles, the book covers, the prefatory material—considering that such elements are indicative of the reception of The Soul of Man under Socialism.

  • 6 An unauthorised American edition was previously published, in 1891 (New York, The Humboldt Publishi (...)
  • 7 An editorial note specifies that the definitive title of the essay, as given by the publisher Humph (...)
  • 8 The book that Lord Henry gives Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890-1891) is referred to (...)

14One first striking feature emerging from that enquiry is the instability of the title of the essay itself, testifying, in my opinion, to the publishers’ and translators’ uneasiness with regard to Wilde’s text. The title of Wilde’s essay, associating two words that seem at first sight antithetical—“soul” (pertaining to religious vocabulary) and “socialism”—prefigures the heterodox dimension of the essay. Numerous versions omit the second part of the title (which actually Wilde agreed with when alive), hence de-politicising the text. The essay was republished by London publisher Arthur L. Humphreys in 1895, in a privately printed edition (50 copies), under the title The Soul of Man (Ellmann 466, Rose 39).6 Its first French translation, published in 1906 in Belgium, is similarly entitled L’Âme de l’homme (trans. Paul Grosfils, 1906, reprinted in 1908).7 The trend was to last well into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: a 1986 French translation by François Weisman was published under the title L’Âme de l’homme (The Soul of Man), while the 2004 edition published by Arléa is entitled L’Âme humaine (The Human Soul, trans. Nicole Vallée, Paris, Arléa). There are however other, more curious variations on the title. The first German translation of Wilde’s essay by Gustav Landauer (1870-1919)—one of the leading theorists of anarchism in Germany—and his wife Hewig Lachman, issued in 1904, is entitled Der Sozialismus und die Seele des Menschen (Socialism and The Soul of Man; trans. Gustav Landauer & Hedwig Lachmann, 1904), thus foregrounding the political import of Wilde’s text. A 1945 Italian edition bears as title Individualismo e Socialismo (Individualism and Socialism, trans. Guglielmo Zatti, Brescia, Studio Editoriale Vivi), bringing to the fore a concept absent from the original title. A 1971 French edition issued by publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert—famous for his publication of forgotten, censored or marginal works—, with a translation and introduction by Daniel Mauroc (1926-2007, a translator and writer close to the Beat generation), is entitled L’Homme et son âme devant la société (Man and his Soul before society). By both omitting the reference to socialism and introducing the notions of society and of trial (“devant la société”), this translation anachronistically echoes Oscar Wilde’s fate, his trials and indictment by the Victorian society whose values he opposed or subverted. The yellow cover page, possibly reminiscent of the decadent 1890s in Great Britain, the so-called “Yellow Nineties”8 and publicising the “sulphurous” nature of the essay (according to the publisher), features a typical Wildean witticism from The Soul of Man under Socialism: “To live is the rarest thing in the world; most people exist, that is all” (1178). The a posteriori biographical reading of the essay suggested by this edition is also apparent in the choice of the epigraph for the essay in the 1905 edition by Thomas B. Mosher (Portland), namely an extract from De Profundis, the letter Wilde wrote in prison to Lord Alfred Douglas, in which Wilde returns to The Soul of Man under Socialism, focusing on his conception of the figure of Jesus:

I take keen pleasure in the reflection that long before sorrow had made my days her own and bound me to the wheel I had written in ‘The Soul of Man’ that he who would lead a Christ-like life must be entirely and absolutely himself, and had taken as my types not merely the shepherd on the hillside and the prisoner in his cell, but also the painter to whom the world is a pageant and the poet for whom the world is a song. (De Profundis 1027)

15It is noteworthy that, more conspicuously than for other, more famous texts such as his comedies or The Picture of Dorian Gray, publishers have often chosen a photograph of Wilde as dandy as a cover for The Soul of Man under Socialism, such as the recent French editions published by Arléa with a preface by contemporary novelist Martin Page. The 2013 French edition published by Arthème Fayard (coll. “Mille et Une Nuits”) features on the cover the word “socialism” written in whirls and curls reminiscent of Art Nouveau, thus also pointing to the paradoxical nature of the essay.

  • 9 Julio Gómez de la Serna, a relative of author Ramón Gómez de la Serna, is “the principal spokesman (...)
  • 10 Ricardo Baeza was “an influential figure in the literary circles of his time, who contributed subst (...)
  • 11 The first Portuguese single-text edition of The Soul of Man under Socialism was similarly published (...)

16What also interested me was to ascertain to what extent the publication of The Soul of Man under Socialism was linked to the historical and political context. A special case in that respect is Italy, in which no fewer than five versions of Wilde’s essay were published in 1945 and 1946, after the fall of Mussolini’s Fascist regime in 1943 and the end of World War 2. Among the translators of The Soul of Man under Socialism in Italy feature Luigi Fabbri (1913, reprinted 1947), a well-known trade union leader from Romagna, and socialist Guglielmo Zatti (1945). In the preface to his translation, Fabbri explains how Wilde’s individualism is not only compatible with, but an integral and important part of socialism. Fabbri compares Wilde to the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, claiming that the two thinkers reach the same conclusions (Severi 119). In his preface, Guglielmo Zatti defines his objective in retranslating Wilde’s text as “contrasting the squalor of present-day Italian culture, after twenty years of Mandarin Fascist rule and four centuries of spiritual decay, with an example of active culture, which is critical and scientific at the same time” (quoted and translated by Severi 122). In Spain, The Soul of Man under Socialism was first translated by Julio Gómez de la Serna in 1920 for the periodical España, a translation then used for the edition of Wilde’s works published by Aguilar in 1943, under Franco’s dictatorship (and regularly reprinted in 1945, 1961, 1963, 1964).9 Two other Spanish translations were published, one in 1930 in Spain by Ricardo Baeza,10 the second in Argentina (trans. Martha S. de Prengler, 1969). Yet interestingly, the first Spanish paperback edition of The Soul of Man under Socialism dates back to 1975 (the year of the death of Franco) and was published by Tusquets, a Catalan publisher, in Barcelona, away from Madrid, the seat of Franco’s power (El Alma del hombre bajo el socialismo, Tusquets, Barcelona, reprinted in 1981, it features the translation by Julio Gómez de la Serna), with a suggestive cover image: a black and white drawing representing two trapeze artists on either side of the title, alluding to the verbal acrobatics characterising Wilde’s essay. It seems that the censorship exerted by Franco’s regime did not extend to Wilde’s text, as long as it was published along other texts by the Irishman and, importantly, in a relatively costly edition, not accessible to the common people and therefore innocuous.11 In the Soviet Union, Wilde was seen as a victim of the hypocrisy of Victorian bourgeois society and thus his works were widely translated and discussed during the Soviet era, especially after the death of Stalin in 1953 (Bullock 238). This does not apply however to The Soul of Man under Socialism, the paradoxical link it weaves between Socialism and individualism probably failing to accord with Marxist-Leninist principles (Bullock 241-242). The essay was first translated into Russian in 1907 (Dusha cheloveka pri sotsialism, trans. M. A. Golovkina) but it does not appear to have been included in Soviet-era publications until 1990 (Oskar Uail’d, “Dusha cheloveka pri sotsialisme”, trans. O. M. Kirichenko, Chelovek: Obraz i suschnost’ [gumanitarnye aspekty] I [1990], 226-267).

17If we now turn to the type of editions and the public targeted in the various editions of The Soul of Man under Socialism several paradoxes appear. Published as a “pamphlet” in 1948 by the Porcupine Press in London, alongside such works as Rosa Luxembourg’s “The Crisis in German social democracy” or Michael Bakunin’s “God and the State”, it is promoted in the preface as “[having] gained especial popularity among the various revolutionary movements in Austria and Eastern Europe at the end of the last century” (vii). On the other hand, it is noteworthy that several other editions are limited editions, precious collectors’ items, such as the 1905 American edition by Thomas Mosher, or the first edition in French published by Arthur Herbert in 1906; both specify the number of copies, the paper used, which is typical of books for bibliophiles. This is in keeping with the original publication of The Soul of Man under Socialism in The Fortnightly Review, a relatively upmarket periodical (Kiberd 19), and certainly largely corroborates David Rose’s assertion according to which “The Soul of Man was an essay of limited influence rather than one of the influential texts of pre-1914 socialism” (Rose 39). Yet how can we account for the fact that in his seminal book for queer theory, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (1991), Jonathan Dollimore argues that Wilde’s essay presents “a radical socialist programme”? On what basis can this essay be called political?

3. Committed Readings

  • 12 The notion of “sexual dissidence” was first put into circulation by American feminist critic Gayle (...)

18In Sexual Dissidence. Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault, Jonathan Dollimore’s aim is to explore the power of “queerness” to disrupt normativity. Sexual dissidence12 is defined as a form of resistance to the cultures of domination (Dollimore 14). It is in that light that he analyses Wilde’s The Soul of Man under Socialism. The first part of Dollimore’s monograph, entitled “Wilde and Gide in Algiers”, provides a clear introduction to the main argument underlying the book. Dollimore opens his essay by recounting the chance encounter between André Gide and Oscar Wilde in Algeria in January 1895. Dollimore goes on to explain that Gide and Wilde offer two contrasting visions of transgression: Gide’s “essentialist” position (as exemplified by his 1924 essay Corydon, in which he argues that homosexuality is intrinsically natural) and Wilde’s fundamentally “anti-essentialist” or “constructionist” stance. Through his use of paradox, Wilde inverts and destabilizes the binaries upon which what Dollimore calls “the repressive ordering of society” is based: “[…] insincerity, inauthenticity, and unnaturalness become the liberating attributes of decentred identity and desire, and inversion becomes central to Wilde’s expression of his aesthetic” (Dollimore 14). The shift in Dollimore’s text from transgressive or deviant desire to “transgressive aesthetic” (6) clearly establishes the link between sexuality and aesthetics. It is in that context that Dollimore locates his discussion of The Soul of Man under Socialism. Dollimore starts by laying stress on the ideological dimension of Wilde’s essay and argues that it is based on a “tough materialist” or “anti-humanist” stance (7), a critique of the notion of “authenticity” (8). He further shows how Wilde articulates the concept of individualism with that of transgressive desire and transgressive aesthetic (8).

  • 13 What should be stressed about Jonathan Dollimore and his colleague at the University of Sussex Alan (...)
  • 14 The MA course still exists, cf. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/cssd/, last accessed 27/1/2014.

19One of the criticisms often levelled against Dollimore is that he reads Wilde (and The Soul of Man under Socialism) in the light of the present, as anachronistically proto-queer and also as “proto-postmodernist”: according to Dollimore, Wilde questions the “depth” model of identity through his delight in playing with surfaces (Dollimore 26). I think however that it is also one of the interests of the theorization of sexual dissidence that we find in Dollimore, namely that it sheds light both on the past but, with the benefit of hindsight, also on the time when such theoretical constructs were produced. The emergence of the British branch of queer theory13 is linked to a specific institutional and political context. In 1991, Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, together with Sandra Freeman, created the MA programme “Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change” at the University of Sussex, one of the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. The various books both Sinfield and Dollimore wrote in the 1990s are a way to provide a theoretical framework and legitimacy to this emerging field of study in the British academy.14 Besides, in the 2005 foreword to Cultural Politics–Queer Reading, an essay first published in 1994, Alan Sinfield, a colleague of Dollimore and fellow queer theorist, recalls the political context in which he worked:

Cultural materialists, basically, wanted to resist the co-option of literature for reactionary tendencies. In the context of rampant capitalist exploitation around the globe, racism at home, and extreme hostility towards the claims of feminism, with Ronald Reagan in the White House and Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, we believed that the political dimension of our work had to be paramount. (Cultural Politics – Queer Reading viii)

  • 15 Both Dollimore and Sinfield repeatedly refer to current topics related to gender and sexuality in t (...)

20Sinfields emphasis is on the social and political dimension of the cultural materialist, queer agenda and on the left wing or “social left” discourse within which it was embedded. It is also important to stress that queer theory developed with the AIDS epidemic and the growth of AIDS activism as backdrops. The word “queer” itself is a reclaiming of a derogatory term used to refer to LGBT individuals and was first redeployed by ACTUP. Political commitment was one of the bases of British queer theory. In Sinfields terse phrasing: “Ask not what we can do for Englit, but whether it can do anything for lesbian and gay people.” (Cultural Politics—Queer Reading 76),15 a rewriting of John Fitzgerald Kennedys democratic credo (“[…] ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. […] [a]sk not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.” [Kennedy]) But arguably, one of the tensions involved in queer theory is its problematic articulation with political action. To put it bluntly, how can the queer destabilization of identity be compatible with a political agenda based on the fight against the oppression that LGBT individuals are victims of? This uneasy negotiation between theory and practice ironically echoes Oscar Wilde, the very figure chosen to epitomise sexual dissidence, and The Soul of Man under Socialism in which he acrobatically tries to articulate aesthetics and politics.

21I would suggest in conclusion that reading Wilde with Rancière, albeit somewhat unexpected and paradoxical, might be a way of going beyond that tension between words and action, aesthetics and politics, art and commitment. In Le Partage du sensible (The Distribution of the Sensible), Jacques Rancière discusses the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a key moment in the redefinition of a new politics of aesthetics and aesthetics of politics (Rancière 21). Rancière’s main thesis is that art and politics effect, each in its own way, a “redistribution of the sensible” (“partage du sensible”), which clearly manifests itself at the turn of the century, with the Arts and Crafts Movement for instance whose aim was to “aestheticise” life (Rancière 18) and blur the limit between “high art” and craftsmanship. For Rancière, genuine political or artistic activities involve forms of innovation that tear bodies from their assigned places and disrupt forms of domination. Both activities have to do with reorienting perceptual space, so that distinguishing between aesthetics and politics may not be pertinent. At the close of the nineteenth century, The Soul of Man under Socialism may thus be called political or committed art in that it effects a reordering of our experience and a redirection of our gaze which is still certainly relevant today.

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Bibliographie

Editions of The Soul of Man under Socialism cited

[1895] Wilde, Oscar. The Soul of Man. London: Arthur L. Humphreys, 1895. Print.

[1904] —. Der Sozialismus und die Seele des Menschen. Aus dem Zuchthaus von Reading. Aesthetisches Manifest. Trans. into German by Gustav Landauer & Hedwig Lachmann. Berlin: Schnabel/Juncker, 1904. Print.

[1905] —. The Soul of Man. Portland, Oregon: Thomas B. Mosher, 1905. Print.

[1906] —. L’Âme de l’homme. Trans. into French by Paul Grosfils. Bruges: Arthur Herbert, 1906. [reprinted in 1908 by J. B. Charles Lembecq-Lez-Hal, Brussels]. Print.

[1906] —. LÂme de lhomme sous le régime socialiste. Trans. into French by Albert Savine. Le Portrait de Mr. W. H. Paris: P.V. Stock, coll. “Bibliothèque Cosmopolite”, 1906. 241-340. [reprinted in 2013, Paris: L’Herne, coll. “Carnets”]. Print.

[1907] —. Dusha cheloveka pri sotsialism. Trans. into Russian by M. A. Golovkina. Moscow: Diletant, 1907. Print.

[1910] —. Di Menshlikhe neshome in a sotsyalisṭisher gezelshafṭ fun Osḳar Ṿeyld. Trans. into Yiddish by M. Ṿarshe. New York: Mayzel & co, 1910. Print.

[1913] —. L’Anima umana in regime socialista. Trans. into Italian by Luigi Fabbri. Bologna: la Controcorrente, 1913. [reprinted 1947]. Print.

[1913-1914] —. LÂme humaine et le Socialisme. Trans. into French by Jules Cantel. Paris: L’Édition Moderne, Librairie Ambert, s. d. [1913 or 1914]. [reprinted in 2012, Paris, Mille et Une Nuits]. Print.

[1930]. El Alma del hombre bajo el socialismo. Trans. into Spanish by Ricardo Baeza. Madrid: La Nave, 1930. Print.

[1945] —. Individualismo e Socialismo. Trans. into Italian Guglielmo Zatti. Brescia, Studio Editoriale Vivi, 1945. Print.

[1948] —. The Soul of Man under Socialism. London: Porcupine Press, 1948. Print.

[1969]. El Alma del hombre bajo el socialismo. Trans. into Spanish by Martha S. de Prengler. Buenos Aires: Rodolfo Alonso, 1969. Print.

[1971] —. L’Homme et son âme devant la société. Trans. into French by Daniel Mauroc. Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1971. Print.

[1975] —. A Alma do homem sob o socialismo. Trans. into Portuguese by Maria da Graça Morais Sarmento. Lisboa: Iniciativas editoriais, 1975. Print.

[1975] —. El Alma del hombre bajo el socialismo. Trans. into Spanish by Julio Gómez de la Serna (1920). Barcelona: Tusquets, 1975, 1981. Print.

[1978] —. Homo animo sub socialismo. Trans. into Esperanto by Kris Long. Laroque Timbaut: La Juna Penso, 1978. Print.

[1986] —. LÂme de lhomme. Trans. into French by François Weisman. Paris: Ressouvenance, 1986 [translation reprinted in 1995, Paris, Cercle des amis du livre]. Print.

[1986] —. LÂme de lhomme sous le socialisme. (With John Cowper Powis, Jugement suspendu sur Oscar Wilde). Trans. into French by Catherine Lieutenant. Verviers (Belgium): La Thalamège, 1986. Print.

[1990] —. Dusha cheloveka pri sotsialisme. Trans. into Russian by O. M. Kirichenko. Chelovek: Obraz i suschnost’ (gumanitarnye aspekty) I (1990). 226-267. Print.

[1990] —. LÂme de lhomme sous le socialisme. Trans. into French by Isabelle Drouin. Paris : Avatar, 1990 [translation reprinted in 1995, Paris, Infrarouge, coll. Idées-Force]. Print.

[1994] —. The Soul of Man under Socialism. 1891. Complete Works. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1994. 1174-1197. Print.

[2004] —. L’Âme humaine. Trans. into French by Nicole Vallée. Paris: Arléa, 2004 (2006). Print.

[2010] —. L’Âme humaine et le socialisme. Trans. into French by Maxime Shelledy. Paris: Aux Forges de Vulcain, 2010. Print.

[2013] —. L’Âme humaine sous le socialisme. Trans. into French by Albert Savine (1906). Paris: L’Herne, coll. “Carnets”, 2013. Print.

[2013] —. L’Âme de l’homme sous le socialisme. Trans. into French by Jules Cantel (1913-1914). Paris: Arthème Fayard, coll. “Mille et Une Nuits”, 2013. Print.

Other sources cited

Barlas, John. Oscar Wilde: A Study. 1892. Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1978. Print.

Bullock, Philip Ross. “Not one of us? The Paradoxes of Translating Wilde in the Soviet Union.” The Art of Accommodation. Literary Translation in Russia. Eds. Leon Burnett and Emily Lygo. Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien: Peter Lang, 2013. 235-264. Print.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. London and New York: Routledge, 1989. Print.

Cohen, Philip. John Evelyn Barlas. A Critical Biography: Poetry, Anarchism, and Mental Illness in Late-Victorian Britain. High Wycombe, Bucks.: Rivendale Press, 2012. Print.

Davis, Lisa E. “Oscar Wilde in Spain.” Comparative Literature, 25: 136-152. Print.

Dollimore, Jonathan and Alan Sinfield, eds. Political Shakespeare. 1985. Cornell: Cornell UP, 1994 & Manchester: Manchester UP, 1994. Print.

Dollimore, Jonathan. Sexual Dissidence. Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. Print.

Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde. 1987. London: Penguin Books, 1988. Print.

Gagnier, Regenia. “Wilde and the Victorians.” The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde. Ed. Peter Raby. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997: 18-33. Print.

Gattégno, Jean. Notice à LÂme de lhomme sous le socialisme. Oscar Wilde. Œuvres. Ed. Jean Gattégno. Paris: Gallimard, coll. “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, 1996: 1786-1790.

Genette, Gérard. Seuils. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1987. Print.

Gide, André. Corydon. 1924. Paris: Gallimard, coll. “Folio”, 1991. Print.

Guy, Josephine M. “‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’: A (Con)Textual History.” Wilde Writings. Contextual Conditions. Ed. Joseph Bristow. Published by the University of Toronto Press in association with the UCLA Center for Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Studies and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2003: 59-85. Print.

Horrox, James. “Socialism and The Soul of Man: Gustav Landauer’s Wilde Translations.” The Soul of Man: Oscar Wilde and Socialism. Oscholars, special issue, Spring 2010. Web. 16 October 2013.

Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. Speech delivered at his inauguration, January 20, 1961. http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/22/greatspeeches. Web. 28 October 2014.

Kiberd, Declan. “Oscar Wilde: The Artist as Irishman”. Wilde the Irishman. Ed. Jerusha McCormack. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1998: 9-23. Print.

Lejeune, Philippe. Le Pacte autobiographique. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975. Print.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. “Hérésies artistiques: l’art pour tous”. 1862. Web. 1 November 2015.

Mateo, Marta. “The Reception of Wilde’s Works in Spain through Theatre Performances at the Turn of the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe. Ed. Stefano Evangelista. London: Continuum, 2010: 156-172. Print.

Noland, Aaron. “Oscar Wilde and Victorian Socialism.” Oscar Wilde. The Man, the Writings, and His World. Ed. Robert N. Keane. New York: AMS Press, 2003: 101-111. Print.

Rancière, Jacques. Le Partage du sensible. Paris: La fabrique, 2000. Print.

—. Dissensus. On Politics and Aesthetics. Edited and Translated by Steven Corcoran. London: Continuum, 2010. Print.

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Rose, David Charles. “Oscar Wilde: Socialist or Socialite?” The Importance of Reinventing Oscar: Versions of Wilde During the Last 100 Years. Eds. Uwe Böker, Richard Corballis and Julie Hibbard. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002: 35-56. Print.

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Severi, Rita. “‘Astonishing in my Italian’: Oscar Wilde’s first Italian Editions.” The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe. Ed. Stefano Evangelista. London/New York: Continuum, 2010: 108-123. Print.

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Notes

1 It is worth recalling that movements such as aestheticism or decadence, to which Wilde is associated, emerged as social phenomena against a background of political rebellion and growth in left-wing activity. It would be simplistic to think that there is no relationship between the two, or merely one of clear-cut opposition or rejection. Richard Ellmann quotes, as one of the sources of inspiration for this essay, a lecture by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), which Wilde attended in 1890 (Ellmann 309). Shaw was a member of the Fabian Society, founded in 1884. The Fabians propounded the idea of gradual socialism. The members of the Fabian Society included sexologist Havelock Ellis and political activist and theorist of homosexuality Edward Carpenter. Wilde attended meetings of the Fabian society in 1888 (Ellmann 273). Wilde’s essay also contains echoes of the works and ideas of William Morris (1834-1896), a writer, artist, craftsman, publisher and Marxist political activist, author of the utopia News from Nowhere (1890). Wilde’s considerations about the relationships between man and machinery, which should not enslave workers but free them (The Soul of Man 1183-1184), probably find their origin in Morris who, after John Ruskin (1819-1900), condemns not machines but the use that is made of them. While at Oxford, Wilde followed Ruskin’s lectures. A great admirer of medieval art, Ruskin was in favour of a return to craftsmanship and criticised the disastrous consequences of industrialisation. The influence of Ruskin on Wilde is perceptible in texts such as “The House Beautiful” and “The Critic as Artist”, in which he rejects the distinction between “high” art and the decorative arts. The end of Wilde’s essay (and the reference to Hellenism, “The new Individualism is the new Hellenism”, the last sentence of the essay, The Soul of Man 1197) testifies to the influence of Walter Pater (1839-1894). The Soul of Man under Socialism presents the reader with a highly personal synthesis of such various influences (see Gagnier 28).

2 L’Âme humaine et le socialisme. Trans. Maxime Shelledy. Paris: Aux Forges de Vulcain, 2010; L’Âme humaine sous le socialisme. Trans. Albert Savine (1906). Paris: L’Herne, coll. “Carnets”, 2013; L’Âme de l’homme sous le socialisme. Trans. Jules Cantel (1913-1914). Paris: Arthème Fayard, coll. “Mille et Une Nuits”, 2013.

3 This idea is frequently to be found in Wilde’s works. For instance, in The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell denounces the “morbidity” of charity (14).

4 Unless otherwise specified, the references to The Soul of Man under Socialism are to the version of the essay in Oscar Wilde. Complete Works (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1994: 1174-1197).

5 In France and in Belgium, The Soul of Man under Socialism has repeatedly been retranslated (Paul Grosfils, 1906; Albert Savine, 1906; Jules Cantel, 1913-1914; Daniel Mauroc, 1971; Catherine Lieutenant, 1986; François Weisman, 1986; Isabelle Drouin, 1990; Nicole Vallée, 2004; Maxime Shelledy, 2010).

6 An unauthorised American edition was previously published, in 1891 (New York, The Humboldt Publishing Company). It gathers The Soul of Man under Socialism, an essay by William Morris (“The Socialist Ideal”) and another one by W. C. Owen, a socialist pamphleteer (“The Coming Solidarity”).

7 An editorial note specifies that the definitive title of the essay, as given by the publisher Humphreys for a 1905 edition, is The Soul of Man.

8 The book that Lord Henry gives Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890-1891) is referred to as the “yellow book” in the novel. The journal published by the Bodley Head from 1894 (1894-1897), and which can be considered as the quintessence of English decadence, is entitled The Yellow Book. So to speak by contamination, some critics refer to the 1890s in Great Britain as the “Yellow Nineties”. Originally, the “yellow books” were cheap editions of (often French) novels, sold in railway stations (see Topp vii).

9 Julio Gómez de la Serna, a relative of author Ramón Gómez de la Serna, is “the principal spokesman for Wilde in the Spain of his generation” (Davis 136) and translated several of Wilde’s texts: El Crimen de Lord Arturo Savile [Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime], trans. Julio Gómez de la Serna, afterword Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1919; Intenciones (Ensayos de literatura y estetica) [Intentions. Essays in literature and aesthetics], trans. Julio Gómez de la Serna, Madrid: Pueyo, 1919; La Duquesa de Padua y otras obras inéditas [The Duchess of Padua and other unpublished works], trans. Julio Gómez de la Serna, Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, 1936; El Fantasma de Canterville [The Ghost of the Cantervilles], trans. Julio Gómez de la Serna, Barcelona: Editorial Nausica, 1941.

10 Ricardo Baeza was “an influential figure in the literary circles of his time, who contributed substantially to the Spanish theatre world as translator, impresario” and who introduced Wilde’s plays to the Spanish stage (Mateo 156).

11 The first Portuguese single-text edition of The Soul of Man under Socialism was similarly published in 1975 (A Alma do homem sob o socialismo, trans. Maria da Graça Morais Sarmento), after the revolution of carnations (1974) and the end of Salazar’s regime.

12 The notion of “sexual dissidence” was first put into circulation by American feminist critic Gayle Rubin, who in her 1984 essay “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” argued that sexuality, like gender, had a political dimension: “Like gender, sexuality is political. It is organized into systems of power, which reward and encourage some individuals and activities, while punishing and suppressing others. Like the capitalist organization of labor and its distribution of rewards and powers, the modern sexual system has been the object of political struggle since it emerged and as it has evolved” (Rubin 170).

13 What should be stressed about Jonathan Dollimore and his colleague at the University of Sussex Alan Sinfield, is that they are both British and that they both worked within British academia. Together, they co-edited the groundbreaking Political Shakespeare. New Essays in Cultural Materialism (first published in 1985). There are notable differences between their approach and that of their famous American counterparts, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (Epistemology of the Closet, 1990) and Judith Butler (Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990), especially in terms of theoretical background. This is true in particular of Alan Sinfield. As opposed to the poststructuralist queer theory of Judith Butler or Eve Sedgwick, he adopts a cultural materialist approach, influenced by critic Raymond Williams and indebted to Louis Althusser and Karl Marx. In that perspective, texts are seen as “inseparable from the conditions of their production and reception in history” (The Wilde Century xviii) and as producing meanings which are always political.

14 The MA course still exists, cf. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/cssd/, last accessed 27/1/2014.

15 Both Dollimore and Sinfield repeatedly refer to current topics related to gender and sexuality in their works Prominent among those is the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988, which prohibited local authorities to “promote” homosexuality, especially in schools (Dollimore 241; Cultural Politics—Queer Reading 59) and which was interpreted as a measure hindering the circulation of LGBT cultures.

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Référence électronique

Xavier GIUDICELLI, « Aesthetics and Politics: The Afterlives of Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) », E-rea [En ligne], 13.2 | 2016, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2016, consulté le 24 septembre 2017. URL : http://erea.revues.org/5129 ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.5129

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Auteur

Xavier GIUDICELLI

Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne
CIRLEP (EA 4299)
xgiudicelli@yahoo.fr
Xavier Giudicelli is Senior Lecturer at the University of Rheims, where he teaches British literature and translation. His research interests include the illustration of literary texts, as well as the rewriting and reinterpretation of Victorian and Edwardian literature in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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