Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Sparks, Dr. E. K.

Committee Member

Chapman , Dr. Wayne

Committee Member

Manganelli , Dr. Kimberly


This paper explores four Wildean texts, their techniques, and their purposes, beginning with an introduction to Wilde's life, contemporary culture, and his major educational and ideological influences--a familiarity that is necessary to understand his more subtle and subversive meanings. The second chapter deals with Wilde's pre-incarceration texts, 'The Decay of Lying' and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The essay serves almost as a guidebook for the writing of the novel and through similarities in theme and vocabulary, perfectly sets up a comparison with the post-incarceration works--De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol--which will be examined in the third chapter, along with various biographical elements which are necessary to any interpretation of De Profundis. Echoing the relationship between 'The Decay of Lying' and The Picture of Dorian Gray, De Profundis serves as an interpretive tool for The Ballad of Reading Gaol. In Reading Gaol Wilde expounds in great detail upon his theory about Christ, who is one of the three primary figures in the poem (the other two being Charles Thomas Wooldridge and, of course, Wilde himself). The object of this treatment is not to demonstrate some great transformation in Wilde's proclaimed philosophy of life and art, but rather to display the 'deepening' of a man who, by discovering that 'the secret of life is suffering' (De Profundis 1082), realized a hope declared in a confiscated letter passed through prison bars: 'Perhaps there may come into my art also, no less than into my life, a still deeper note, one of greater unity of passion, and directness of impulse' (1098).



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.