Tag Archives: wilde

Adorno and Wilde

“For that reason, however, reflection on the work of art is justified in inquiring, and obligated to inquire concretely into its social content and not content itself with a vague feeling of something universal and inclusive”… “In order to be susceptible of aesthetic contemplation, works of art must always be thought through as well, and once thought has been called into play by the poem it does not let itself be stopped at the poem’s behest,” (Adorno 38).

This “vague feeling of something universal and inclusive” is what interests me in Adorno’s passage. Instead of simply reflecting on the content with the notion that it has social prerequisites, we should take into consideration what it means to be human by “hear[ing ] the voice of humankind”. So we are obligated to inquire, as Adorno says, and think deeply since social content is more than just being universal and inclusive at the same time. In addition, he says thinking about literature’s concepts cannot be extinguished. That if the work is doing its job correctly, then it calls on you to think in other moments when you’re not looking at the work.

This point, that literature is an art form with a powerful social construct which begs not to be thought about during one’s reading or even after, but into daily life reminded me of the jabs Wilde had Vivian take about Nature in his essay.

“Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind. Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as people is entirely due to our national stupidity” (Wilde 479)

But what makes me connect these two passages is, what if the Nature Wilde is writing about is human nature and not just the physical world? That the human mind (Mind) is constantly debating human nature (Nature) and it is this that makes up every work of literature, and makes one think thoroughly and daily about works of art. I feel as if both authors argue this point, and both feel that it is highly overlooked when reading an important text.

Adorno, Theadore W. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 38. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying: An Observation.” The Critical Tradition. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin, 2007. 479. Print.

The Decay of Lying

“If we take Nature to mean natural simple instinct as opposed to self-conscious culture, the work produced under this influence is always old-fashioned, antiquated, and out of date. One touch of Nature may make the whole world kin, but two touches of nature will surely destroy any work of Art. If on the other hand, we regard Nature as the collection of phenomenon external to man, people only discover in her what they bring to her. She has no suggestions of her own” ( Wilde, 485).


Richter, David H., ed. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2007.

This excerpt seems to fall in line with the comment Vivian makes about Impressionists influencing the fog in London, “One does not see anything until one sees  its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence.” It is interesting that the fogs of the time were often caused by human influence (pollution). So then, is it really nature?

Art and Life Draw Inspiration from Each Other

” All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life, and I feel sure that if you think seriously about it you will find that it is true. Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realizes in fact what has been dreamed in fiction. Scientifically speaking, the basis of life—the energy of life, as Aristotle would call it—is simply the desire for expression and Art is always presenting various forms through which this expression can be attained. Life seizes on them and uses them, even if they be to her own hurt.”

The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde

There are many instances in modern times where one can argue that Life imitates Art. For example, the responsibility of fashion designers as well as fashion magazines is to create new clothing trends and to provide consumers with visual experiences of these trends (via runway shows or spreads in magazines). It is then the consumers’ job to take those pieces of art that the designers and editors created and compiled and to implement them into their own lives. However, it has to be noted that art does not just emerge from nothingness. Artists, whether they be poets or painters or musicians, draw inspiration from life and their own personal experiences. They also create their art with their consumers in mind. They often think about what will appeal to the masses and how they can do it in a way so that they won’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. I think the issue of delegating whether or not one form imitates the other is too complex to elect one being superior of the other. Instead, there are various circumstances in which either one can be argued for.




Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of lying.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. By David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 491. Print.


The Art of Lying

“But in modern days while the fashion of writing poetry has become far too common, and should, if possible, be discouraged, the fashion of lying has almost fallen into disrepute” (Wilde 9).

Lying has always been presumed as a negative thing. You’re taught at a young age that lying is wrong. Then we are also taught to have and share our opinions, which are not always accurate to say the least, but wouldn’t be labeled as lies. As stated above, poetry is held in high esteem, yet lying isn’t. To be technical one could say any fiction is lying, although each bit of fiction comes from some part of the truth. So if one thought this way, anything not entirely true or accurate is a lie. Therefore poetry would be considered lying. But perhaps this quote could sway the negative connotation lying has. Yes maybe poetry & art & fiction are lies, but who says thats a bad thing? Especially when the Art of Lying sounds so intriguing.

Wilde, Oscar, and Percival Pollard. Intentions: The Decay of Lying, Pen, Pencil and Poison, the Critic as Artist, the Truth of Masks. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. Web