Wilde Between the Sheets: Oscar Wilde, Mail Bondage and De Profundis argues that Oscar Wilde’s narrative strategies reveal a quick-witted, ingenious fighter—an active agent who tested boundaries and recognized the dangers of doing so, adopting essentialist or anti-essentialist strategies according to whatever shifting purpose he is writing with. David Walton challenges the one-dimensional view of Wilde as a tragic victim defeated by the penal system, arguing that Wilde constructed a self by weaving complex networks of time and paradoxical notions of space, along with a network of literary references and other intertexts. Walton goes on to claim that Wilde fashions a self while simultaneously being shaped by those he fashions, creating a critical dialogue which shows that, by constructing Wilde through interpretive acts, he has already been partially fashioned by Wilde himself.
David Walton is senior lecturer and coordinator of cultural studies at the University of Murcia.
Preface: The Accidental Book
Chapter One: The Wilde-Angle Lens
Chapter Two: The Exposure of Private Parts: Ontology and the Fashioning of ‘De Profundis’
Chapter Three: Sentencing Wilde; Wilde on Trial: the Gay Science
Chapter Four: Man of Letters: Trials, Politics and ‘Homotextuality’
Chapter Five: Fashioning Wilde in the Space of the Other
Chapter Six: An Author Authored
Chapter Seven: Doing Time: Wilde chronotopes and a Poetics of Space
Chapter Eight: Sentencing a Self in the Future: the Chronotope of Future Time
Chapter Nine: Fashioning Wilde as Intertextual Man
Chapter Ten: From the multiplication of social voices to Christ on the Wilde side
Chapter Eleven: Playtex(i)t: A Dialogue
About the Author
In the first book-length study of Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, David Walton has produced something that should be of serious interest to all students of literary and cultural studies: a wonderfully focused and theoretically rich, textual and historical analysis, that has much to teach us all.
Wilde Between the Sheets: Oscar Wilde, Mail Bondage and 'De Profundis' is a unique, ground-breaking and much needed contribution to literary studies that finally places Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’ centre-stage. Situating Wilde in his social, political, legal and cultural contexts, the sheer profundity, detailed research and intellectual imagination behind Walton’s examination of Wilde and ‘De Profundis’ shed new light (not to mention casting playful shadows) on Wilde, his life and writing. The book also presents a multidimensional Rubik’s cube of literary approaches and philosophical concepts; with much theoretical dexterity, the author realigns these to form intricate new patterns of critical thinking, making the book as much about literary criticism as it is about a study of a literary figure and their work. As Walton takes the reader with much wit and insight through each chapter, Wilde Between the Sheets indeed does as it promises: it opens the door to a new space for the literary, historical, material and (con)textual exploration of ‘De Profundis’ and the fascinating fashionings of Wilde.
This book offers a highly original critical approach to Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis. Characterized by an astonishing depth and detail of analysis, it engages in a thorough reading of the letter, teasing out virtually all interpretive possibilities. I would say that it offers the most comprehensive account possible, but this would negate Walton’s theoretical contention that the textual complexities of the work and its socio-political contexts mean that a final accounting of it is impossible. What I can say is that Wilde scholars should begin, rather than end, here.
Reacting against...common wisdom is what makes Wilde between the Sheets must-reading for those interested in The Profundis. Moreover, I believe the book also has a broad appeal for Wilde specialists and readers of Post-Structuralist literary criticism in general.