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Oscar Wilde’s Plagiarism: The Triumph of Art Over Ego


Florina Tufescu

Oscar Wilde’s practices of plagiarism are seen as part of a neo-classical tradition. This book presents a history of the uses of plagiarism from antiquity to the present and offers an interpretation of Wilde’s plagiarism.


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ISBN: 9780716529057 Categories: ,


Oscar Wilde’s practices of plagiarism across genres are seen as part of a neo-classical tradition.

His allegory of plagiarism in An Ideal Husband is compared to those created by fellow playwrights, including Ibsen and G.B. Shaw. Wilde’s polemical imitation of Shakespeare’s cut-and-paste method in ‘The Portrait of Mr. W.H.’ inspired Joyce to experiment with the erasure of quotation marks in Ulysses.

The blatant collage of Wilde’s poetry anticipates T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, just as it recalls Manet’s paintings, which provocatively assert artistic status by drawing attention to their flatness. The mosaic-like structure of The Picture of Dorian Gray is akin to that of other anti-individualist masterpieces, notably Goethe’s Faust and D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel.

Why did a genius like Oscar Wilde rely on plagiarism from the beginning to the end of his career? Why did Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Pater do this as well? And how should teachers, critics, and editors deal with the evidence of plagiarism at the heart of the canon?

The extent of sophisticated plagiarism in the canonical works and the impressive list of its apologists from Ackroyd to Zola indicate the need for new models of authorship and intellectual property: models that would benefit scholarly and artistic creativity and solve the paradox of plagiarism as one of the most serious and most common of literary crimes.

This book – now in paperback – presents a compact history of the meanings and uses of plagiarism from antiquity to the present. It offers an interpretation of Wilde’s plagiarism and of its impact on Joyce, Borges, Gide, et al., as well as a revelation of the plagiaristic, counter-romantic tradition from Poe to Ackroyd.

Table of Contents

1. Is Oscar Wilde a Plagiarist? Four Answers and a Biased Opinion
2. Plagiarism: A Decadent Tradition
3. The Art of Collage from Wilde to T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats
4. Decadent (and Shakespearean) Versus Romantic Originality: Shaw’s Dark Lady, Wilde’s W.H.,
Joyce’s Ulysses
5. ‘Plagiarist: A Writer of Plays’: The Spectacle of Criticism in Nineteenth-Century Drama
6. Out of ‘The Prison-House of Realism’ and into ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’: The Plagiarists
Goethe, Wilde and D.M. Thomas
7. Let Us Plagiarize Wildly
Appendix: Annotated List of Likely and Confirmed
Sources for The Portrait of Mr. W.H.

About the Author:

Florina Tufescu is Visiting Lecturer at Uppsala University, Sweden and Associate Editor for THE OSCHOLARS, the international online journal dedicated to Oscar Wilde and the fin de siècle.In addition to this book, she has also contirbuted a chapter to Oscar Wilde, edited by Jarlath Killeen, and part of Irish Academic Press’s series Visions and Revisions: Irish Writers in their Time.