A radical re-examination of Oscar Wilde's plays, Revising Wilde challenges long-established views of the writer as a dilettante and dandy, revealing him instead as a serious philosopher and social critic who used his plays to subvert the traditional values of Victorian literature and society. By tracing Wilde's painstaking revisions and redrafting of his plays, Sos Eltis uncovers themes subsequently concealed in successive versions which demonstrate that Wilde was in fact an anarchist, a socialist and a feminist. Wilde borrowed plots and incidents from numerous contemporary French and English plays, but he then subtly rewrote his plagiarized material in order to mock the conventions he imitated. By analysing previously unconsidered
manuscript drafts, and comparing the finished plays with their sources, Eltis displays a surprising depth and complexity to Wilde's work. The little-known early play, Vera; or, The Nihilists is revealed as a politically radical drama, the society plays are shown to challenge Victorian sexual and social mores, and The Importance of Being Earnest is interpreted as an anarchic farce, which reflects the Utopian vision of Wilde's political essay, `The Soul of Man Under Socialism'. Taking into account the more recent scholarship and criticism, this accessible study will be of interest to Wilde specialists and enthusiasts alike.
Readership: Scholars and students of English literature, particularly of drama and Oscar
Wilde; theatre historians; comparative literature students; Wilde enthusiasts.
Sos Eltis, Boston University
"Revising Wilde, has a strong contribution to make in innovative study of the Society Comedies in particular ... this book is ... refreshing. It has new information to offer in the shape of the consideration of the drafts of the plays, and it presents it in a clear and frank manner. Eltis's style is free from the clutter of terminology which often masks critical works and makes them unintelligible to the uninitiated reader and dense to the initiated. Her presentation makes her argument clear and easy to follow ... its clarity does it much credit." - The Wildean 10
"The argument of this book on the whole is a compelling one, and likely to be influential - partly because of the fluent articulation Eltis gives it, partly because of the sheer weight of archival evidence that she has assembled from little-known source plays and manuscripts." - Kerry Powell, Victorian Studies, Summer 1997
"intriguing study" - Nineteenth-Century Literature 51:3 (December 1996)