October 11, 2011

Great Writers: Oscar Wilde

If you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and are not familiar with TTC, you should definitely be. The Teaching Company produces audio recordings of actual university lectures from some of the most renowned professors in a variety of disciplines ranging from literature, history and philosophy to applied sciences, business and economics. For the wanna-be eternal scholar like me, this is simply gold.

In my first class, titled "Great Writers, Their lives and Works", I'm learning about some of the greatest writers of all time. Not necessarily the best known. So far, we've covered the likes of Oscar Wild, Beatrix Potter, H.L. Mencken, Robert Burns and Maurice Maeterlinck. I must admit, other than being vaguely familiar with some of Oscar Wild's work and one of Beatrix Potter's most famous characters called Peter the Rabbit, I knew very little about the lives and legacies of these influential writers.

So it's been an interesting and humbling experience for me. Something you'll hear me say a lot because I will be the first to admit that I know very little and I'm often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge out there. So much to learn so little time and as far as I am aware, no one has yet invented a way to make the day last longer than 24 hours. Consider that most of us have to work 8 hours a day to pay the bills, add at least 1 hour for commuting to and from the office, another 6-8 hours destined for sleeping, and as if this wasn't enough, we have to eat 3 times a day and find time to shower at least once. Note that I hadn't even gotten into time wasted, I mean spent, with friends, family and significant others in all sorts of social gatherings and mating rituals. It's depressing and I can go on but I'll spare you the details of my philosophical reflexions.

Back to the writers.. I don't have time to talk about them all but one in particular truly deserves a special mention.

Oscar Wilde, an eccentric Irish man of unquestionable talent, wit and charm, considered one of the most prominent people of his time. He excelled in his studies at Trinity College in Dublin and then at Oxford. Shortly after graduation, he moved to London, where among other impressive achievements, he became one of the most popular playwrights of the time and was also well-known for his witty epigrams and his outspoken support for aestheticism. Of his work, I've read the only novel he ever published "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and what many consider his masterpiece play "The Importance of Being Earnest". Both bold stands, although at least in the case of his plays done tactfully through good ol' humor, against the imposed moral and social restrictions of the Victorian era. Ever present in his work were themes such as decadence and debauchery, duplicity and hypocrisy, homosexuality and sexual anarchy.

Ironically, or maybe not really so, he is equally remembered for his scandalous public disgrace concerning matters of sexual preference which resulted in his conviction and a 2-year prison sentence. Being a homosexual was not only considered immoral but was actually a capital offense and prosecuted by law during the Victorian era in Britain, while child labor for instance, was not believed to be quite as serious. Children as young as 5 years old were sent to work in coal mines, many of whom did not live to see their 25th birthday. Those were dark times and we've certainly come a long way since then.

One of my favorite and most famous Wilde quotes is: "I can resist everything but temptation". I'd say that makes him rather human, wouldn't you agree?


  1. Prima, me encanta!
    Viniendo de ti, no esparaba menos!

    Un abrazote,


  2. Gracias prima bella!
    Vamos a cultivar esa venita literaria de los "Muñises" a ver que se cosecha :) Espero que me sigas enviando más cositas.. Un abrazo