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The Aesthetics of Self-Invention

Oscar Wilde to David Bowie

2004
Author:

Shelton Waldrep

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Traces the influence of Oscar Wilde as the precursor of twentieth-century artists of self-performance

Shelton Waldrep explores the cultural influences in Oscar Wilde’s life and his influence on the art of the twentieth century, particularly on some of its most aestheticized performers: Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and David Bowie. As Waldrep reveals, Wilde’s fusing of art with commerce foresaw the coming century’s cultural producers who would blend works of “high art” and mass-market appeal.

A provocative book on the importance of Oscar Wilde for contemporary cultural production.

Matthew Tinkcom, author of Working Like a Homosexual: Camp, Capital, Cinema

By printing the title “Professor of Aesthetics” on his visiting cards, Oscar Wilde announced yet another transformation—and perhaps the most significant of his career, proclaiming his belief that he could redesign not just his image but his very self. Shelton Waldrep explores the cultural influences at play in Wilde’s life and work and his influence on the writing and performance of the twentieth century, particularly on the lives and careers of some of its most aestheticized performers: Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, and David Bowie. As Waldrep reveals, Wilde’s fusing of art with commerce foresaw the coming century’s cultural producers who would blend works of both “high art” and mass-market appeal.

Whether as a gay man or as a postmodern performance artist ahead of his time, Wilde ultimately emerges here as the embodiment of the twentieth-century media-savvy artist who is both subject and object of the aesthetic and economic systems in which he is enmeshed.

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Shelton Waldrep is associate professor of English at the University of Southern Maine. He is the coauthor of Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World (1995) and editor of The Seventies: The Age of Glitter in Popular Culture (2000).

Book Default Image

A provocative book on the importance of Oscar Wilde for contemporary cultural production.

Matthew Tinkcom, author of Working Like a Homosexual: Camp, Capital, Cinema