The Importance of being Earnest: context/ arguments

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  • Created on: 27-01-19 15:07
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  • The Importance of being Earnest- Context/ Arguments
    • The Aesthetic Movement- artistic movement of late 19th Century- 'art for art's sake'
      • Revolutionary idea in Victorian England which was very focused on self improvement.
        • Rise of the middle class and waning of the aristocracy- Victorians believed industriousness and commitment were all that was needed for a man to succeed.
        • higher education largely limited to elite so art, especially books filled the void for lower classes
          • Aspiring middle classes educated themselves from books and used them to cultivate their moral sensibilities.
            • Rise of the middle class and waning of the aristocracy- Victorians believed industriousness and commitment were all that was needed for a man to succeed.
      • rejected this idea- built on ideas of 1800's German Romantic philosophers e.g. Immanuel Kant and J.W Goethe- rejected Enlightenme-nt's idea of 'utalitarianism'- arts value lies in it's beauty and the pleasure it gives.
        • 'improving art'- art should be used exclusively for moral or and intellectual instruction
          • Revolutionary idea in Victorian England which was very focused on self improvement.
            • higher education largely limited to elite so art, especially books filled the void for lower classes
              • Aspiring middle classes educated themselves from books and used them to cultivate their moral sensibilities.
          • The comedy of manners genre of the play and satirical tone plays on a shallow and meaningless society and on the surface appears a completely trivial story meant only to amuse
            • William Archer (critic)- "It is a delight to see, it sends wave after wave of laughter around the theater; but as a text for criticism it is barron and delusive."
            • Oscar WIlde- 'All art is quite useless'- preface to Dorian Gray'- made him the greatest icon of this movement
          • Cecily's diary is entirely fictional- it's purpose is to entertain and fulfill Cecily's fantasies instead of accurately record information or inform others- no real purpose.
      • The Decadent movement
        • origins in common and terms often used interchangeably
          • The Aesthetic Movement- artistic movement of late 19th Century- 'art for art's sake'
            • rejected this idea- built on ideas of 1800's German Romantic philosophers e.g. Immanuel Kant and J.W Goethe- rejected Enlightenme-nt's idea of 'utalitarianism'- arts value lies in it's beauty and the pleasure it gives.
              • 'improving art'- art should be used exclusively for moral or and intellectual instruction
                • The comedy of manners genre of the play and satirical tone plays on a shallow and meaningless society and on the surface appears a completely trivial story meant only to amuse
                  • William Archer (critic)- "It is a delight to see, it sends wave after wave of laughter around the theater; but as a text for criticism it is barron and delusive."
                  • Oscar WIlde- 'All art is quite useless'- preface to Dorian Gray'- made him the greatest icon of this movement
                • Cecily's diary is entirely fictional- it's purpose is to entertain and fulfill Cecily's fantasies instead of accurately record information or inform others- no real purpose.
          • Qualities included intense refinement, the valuing of artificiality over nature, a position of ennui/ boredom, interest in perversity and paradox, and in transgressive modes of sexuality
            • Many of these themes evident in TIOBE e.g. Algernon often speaks in paradox, all characters behave 'perversely' and almost all events in the play occur as result o a sense of 'ennui.'
            • Willde became the most famous writer to adopt the 'decadent style' of writing after writing 'the Picture of Dorian Gray' which was seen as obscene at the time.
            • Wilde's homosexuality influenced an interest in 'transgressivemodes of sexuality' in his novels and plays, including TIOBE
        • Marxist Readings- 'minds are not free: they only think they are'
          • Social Class
            • Literature is representational and reflects the social world' / 'it is not the conciousness of men which determines their existence but their social existence which determines their conciousness'
              • e.g. Jack is wealthy but his class is indeterminate as his heritage is unknown meaning he is denied the right to marry Gwendolen by Aunt Augusta- decision appears unjust and ludicrous causing the audience to question the fairness of this class prejudice
          • Illusory Nature of choice
            • 'minds are not free: they only think they are'
              • All charaters in the play are unconciously heavily influenced throughout by the shallow rules and regulations of the society- this, not love, influences who they fall in love with and marry
          • Alienation
            • 'Capitalism turns people into things: it reifies them. We become alienated from ourselves in a capitalist society'
              • Cecily's sense of isolation in her sheltered country life leads her to concoct her fictional diary. The contrast between Cecily's diary and the reality of her life emphasizes her alienation from the 'real world'/ the life she wants and shows the absurdity of a life without meaning
          • Marxism: Political & economic  philosophy in which the  concept of class struggle  plays a central role in understanding society's  allegedly  inevitable  development  from  bourgeois  oppression  under  capitalism to a socialist and ultimately  classless  society.
        • Femenist arguments
          • Women and power
            • 'Literature both reflects women's lack of power and contributes to it'
              • Wilde reverses expectations of the time- play's women are more powerful and generally control the play's men e.g. Lady Bracknell ultimately controls all character's fates as they need her permission to marry.
          • Women and stereotypes
            • 'Passive women=virtuous, active women= dangerous, selfish' / 'Typically women are stereotyped positively or negatively (angel/ whore)
              • Gwendolen is controlling and manipulative and shallow, but she is seen as an 'angel' by Jack- at the end of the novel she gets her way and is happily married to Jack, whose real name turns out to be 'Ernest'- so Wilde breaks the stereotypical depiction of women in literature.
          • Gender
            • 'Language by it's very structure seems to enshrine inequality. Our society is full of uncritical notions of gender.'
              • Wilde acknowledges misodgynisticattitudes towards women in the play through the way Jack and Algy talk about women but contrats this with the reality of characters- e.g. Jack thinks Gwendolen is innocent and sweet but she is relly intelligent , assertive and controlling
        • Metaphor Argument
          • Metaphor
            • 'Involves comparison- opposite to literal'/ 'Metaphors can help us see things more clearly'
              • Characters serve as metaphors for stereotypes/ issues in society and they're shallow behaviour/ attitudes in certain situations presents a metaphor for more complex issues.
          • Symbolism
            • 'about suggestion rather than comparison'
              • Wilde uses symbolism e.g in the form of food in place of sex in order make 'suggestions' about character's attitudes toward sex and through them, society's attitudes as a whole.
          • Allegory
            • 'A whole narrative with another meaning'
              • TIOBE is an allegory as it appears on the surface to be a shallow and trivial story about couples falling in love and overcoming problems in order to marry, but beneath this narrative is a satirical criticism of the shallow society in which the play is set and was released.

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