Discuss the ways in which Christian constructs resonate in the Hagiographas of aestheticism and degeneracy.
Typically, the impression of Victorian degeneracy has been twinned with the thought of wickedness and sinning ; it was, after all, the ‘immoral’ content of Wilde’s Preface toThe Picture of Dorian Gray( 1996 ) that prompted its reference at his test ( Ellmann, 1987 ) rendering it everlastingly a book that challenges consensual impressions of psychosexual and moral behavior, peculiarly with respect to modern-day values and mores. J.K. Huysman’sA Rebours( 1994 ) , that provided the theoretical and poetical design for Wilde’s work, has besides been seen as a novel that defies the natural order of creative activity ; a image of adult male disputing the domination of God through the creative activity of unreal universes and unreal consciousnesses ( Mauldon, 1998 ) [ 1 ] .
However, there is I think, another side to the Victorian degeneracy motion, one that is related much more closely to the construct of agony, the creative person and the images of Christ. In this essay I would wish to look at this subject in three key plants, Wilde’s dramaSalome( 1966 ) , Algernon Charles Swinburne’s verse formDoloresand Walter Pater’s averments on Da Vinci’s Last Supper in his workThe Renaissance( 1906 ) . I will try to set up links between the impression of the aesthete and the impression of the ascetic, the agony of the creative person and the agony of Christ.
Wilde’s dramaSalomeencapsulates many of the poetic concerns of non merely our capable affair here but of Wilde himself. The narrative borrows from the New Testament, reciting the narrative of the eroticized girl of Herod who pleases her male parent through dance and demands the caput of John the Baptist in return. Wilde creates a symbolic merger of intending to propose both sexual and originative emasculation that consequences in non merely the decease of Jokanaan ( Wilde’s nickname for John the Baptist ) but besides, in the play’s shutting comments, Salome herself [ 2 ] .
This merger of two significances is a thematic in Wilde’s work that Michael Patrick Gillespie discusses in his surveyOscar Wilde and the Poetics of Ambiguity( 1996 ) :
“Like Wilde ‘s other plants, Salome invites a paradigm displacement from the familiar system of exclusionary picks toward an adjustment of pluralistic thought. Simply displacing one set of conventions with another runs the hazard of establishing positions as revisionist and circumscribed as those supplanted.” ( Gillespie, 1996: 137 )
InSalome, Wilde evokes discourses refering both Christian psychosexuality and the nature of the creative person. The figure of Jokanaan, for case, exists as a phallic symbol that is foremost adored ( “Jokanaan, I am amourous of thy organic structure! They body is white like the lilies of a field that the mower hath ne’er mowed” [ Wilde, 19966: 238 ] ) and so castrated and the Judeo-christian ethical stance of the drama can be seen reflected in the relationship between Jokanaan and Salome ; the latter stand foring the dangers of sexual surplus, the former the pureness of the psyche touched by Christ.
Wilde equates the feminine with the emasculating Other ; non merely does Salome incite the decease of John the Baptist but her female parent, Herodias, prompts her to make so against the wants of her male parent ; a clear form for the nature of feminine gender. Jonakaan reflects the fright that this instills early in the play with the lines:
“Jokanaan: Who is this adult female who is looking at me? I will non hold her expression at me. Wherefore doth she look at me with her aureate eyes, under her aureate palpebras? I know non who she is. I do non wish to cognize who she is. Bid her begone. It is non her that I would speak.” ( Wilde, 1966: 238 )
What is of import in this infusion is that Jokanaan is both attracted and repelled by the regard of Salome, whom he knows to be both sexually tempting and emasculating. This is extremely redolent of the construct of lecherousness as a wickedness in, among other plants St Augustine’sCity of God( 1984 ) :
“Sometimes the ( sexual ) urge is an unwanted interloper, sometimes it abandons the eager lover, and desire cools off in the organic structure while it is boiling heat in the head. Therefore queerly does lust decline to be a retainer non merely to will to engender but even to the lecherousness for lewd indulgence.” ( St. Augustine, 1984: 577 )
We can observe, in both Wilde’sSalomeand St. Augustine, the construct of wickedness and sinning as both attractant and danger. This besides, of class, provides much, if non all of the poetic sense of Swinburne’sDolores.
If Wilde’s Jokanaan is an illustration of turning off from wickedness, Swinburne’s verse formDoloresis an example of the glory of wickedness. Through the verse form we have this same pick, this same binary ; of wickedness or saintliness, good or evil. What characterizesDolores, I think, is non so much the masochistic elements but the transgressing of Christian ethical boundaries. Like the obscene addendum that upholds the position quo, Swinburne’s verse form supports the Christian ethical credo by offending it. In lines such as
“But Sweet as the rind was the nucleus is ;
We are disposed of thee still, we are disposed,
O sanguine and elusive Dolores,
Our Lady of Pain.” ( Swinburne, 1906: 129 )
The poet evokes a whirl of poetic figure of speechs that both reflects and subverts the impression of Christian wickedness. We have contemplations of original wickedness here, the biting of the apple, the Augustinian impression of bodily lust but we besides have the corruption of Christian imagination ; Our Lady of the Flowers becomes Our Lady of Pain and, in the remainder of the verse form, religious flagellation becomes liked to sexual yearning, desire and phallic symbolism:
“But the worm shall resuscitate thee with busss ;
Thou shalt alteration and transmute as a God,
As the rod to a snake that hisses,
As the snake once more to a rod.” ( Swinburne, 196: 137 )
Such evidently sexual imagination allows us to see Swinburne’s verse form as one that acknowledges yet transgresses the boundaries of wickedness and Christian morality.
Both of these plants, nevertheless, have a deeper symbolic significance that becomes evident if compare the thematic and poetic sense with Walter Pater’s descriptions of Da Vinci’sLast Supper. For Pater, the symbolism of Da Vinci was contained every bit much in the nature of its building as in image:
“About the Last Supper, its decat and Restorations, a whole literature has risen up, Goethe’s brooding study of its sad lucks being possibly the best.” ( Pater, 1948: 263 )
Pater tells us of Da Vinci’s desire to work in oils:
“…the new method which he had been one of the first to welcome, because it allowed of so many after ideas ( sic ) . So polish a working-out of flawlessness. It turned out that on a plastered wall no procedure could hold been less durable” ( Pater, 1948: 264 )
There is a direct relationship between the transiency of the flesh of Christ as symbolized in theLast Supperand the transiency of the oils in which Da Vinci was working. Pater sees the two as co-occuring in a causeless act of semi-spiritual fable for the inevitable agony and decay of the creative person ; a impression that is reflected in bothDoloresandSalome. In Wilde’s drama, for case, it is easy to compare the sooth stating and poesy of Jokanaan with the dramatist himself and so excessively the agony of both John the Baptist and Christ. [ 3 ]
In Swinburne, the poet is taunted and made to endure by a kept woman that is portion dominatrix, portion Muse ; the tortuosity of the sexual procedure becomes, in the symbolism of the verse form, the tortuosity of the artistic procedure, the creative person being made to endure, as is Christ, for the good of humanity.
In both Wilde’sSalomeand Swinburne’sDolores, so, we can observe contemplations of a figure of cardinal Christian constructs ; foremost, the nature of wickedness and sinning as being dialogic, both absorbing and terrifying and, secondly, the image of enduring as it relates to both Christ and the decay of the organic structure, symbolized for Pater by Da Vinci’s theLast Supper.
Each of these constructs allows us penetrations into non merely the aesthetic but besides the moral sense of the Late Victorian creative person and critic but they are particularly lighting with respects the plant we have here looked at
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