Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year. The longer and revised version of The Picture of Dorian Gray published in book form in featured an aphoristic preface—a defence of the artist's rights and of art for art's sake—based in part on his press defences of the novel the previous year.
The furor was unsurprising: no work of mainstream English-language fiction had come so close to spelling out homosexual desire. Once Dorian discovers his godlike powers, he carries out various heinous acts, including murder; but to the Victorian sensibility his most unspeakable deed would have been his corruption of a series of young men. You were his great friend.
It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman…. From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me….
I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself" 7. During the Victorian era, this was a dangerous quote. The Victorian era was about progress.
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That is all. Of course, even as Wilde wrote these words, he knew that the critics did not agree with his assessment. In fact, the entire preface is a protest; a response to the backlash created by the original publication of his now-classic novel.
It is a dark and twisted story filled with moral decline, depravity, sex, and ruthless blackmail. Dorian Gray is a young, college freshman, attending his first semester at Indiana University. There he meets Caleb Black, who becomes his obsession.
Its conceit was captivating, in more ways than one. Gray unwittingly makes a Faustian pact whereby his own youthful beauty remains unblemished, while a portrait he hides in an attic shows the ravages visited on his face and body by his ugly character. It was a Friday afternoon in the summer ofand I sat in the living room of my flat in Edinburgh, absolutely gripped.
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Edward S. BrinkleyUniversity of Virginia. The latter association, read by other commentators particularly in the final pages as punishment for narcissism, hedonism, or homosexual activity, is here glossed as an accusation against Victorian injunctions against same sex sexual activity constitutive of homosexual identity: the marks of disease accrue in the sphere of cultural representation, which then mark and mar the individual body. Dorian Gray as a text then launches a kind of "homosexual panic" on the part of subsequent writers in "decadent modernism," notably Gabriele D'Annunzio, whose Il Piacere attempts to re-valorize the ephebe as the bearer of canon—and must now do so as an avowedly heterosexual male, but in the context of the danger of the dandy: the Wilde figure as "Humphrey Heathfield" must be introduced in order to have been experienced, even if only in disgust.