Oscar Wilde was a consumer modernist. His modernist aesthetics drove him into the heart of the mass culture industries of 1890s London, particularly the journalism and popular theatre industries.
Wilde was extremely active in these industries: as a journalist at the Pall Mall Gazette; as magazine editor of the Women’s World; as commentator on dress and design through both of these; and finally as a fabulously popular playwright.
Because of his desire to impact a mass audience, the primary elements of Wilde’s consumer aesthetic were superficial ornament and ephemeral public image – both of which he linked to the theatrical. This concern with the surface and with the ephemeral was, ironically, a foundational element of what became twentieth-century modernism – thus we can call Wilde’s aesthetic a consumer modernism, a root and branch of modernism that was largely erased.
About the Author
Paul L. Fortunato is Assistant Professor at the University of Houston, Downtown, US.
Table of Contents
Background: Wilde's Social Circles and Consumer Culture 1
Newspaper Culture in the Pall Mall Gazette Years (1884-1890) 15
The Woman's World (1887-1889) as Fashion Magazine and Modernist Laboratory 37
Philosophy with a Needle and Thread: The Aesthetics of Fashion in Baudelaire, Wilde, and Tomson/Watson 61
Consumer Fashion and Modernist Aesthetics in Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) 87
Mrs. Erlynne as Modernist: The Artist of Consumer Image and Ritual 113