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Christ as the “Romantic Artistµ: Romanticism and Suffering in De Profundis

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Keywords: Oscar Wilde, De Profundis, Romanticism, Aestheticism

Written during Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment at Reading Gaol, De Profundis (1897) is to a considerable extent the writer’s retrospective manifesto. In this article, I suggest that Wilde’s definition of Christ as the embodiment of “the supreme romantic typeµ and “the romantic temperamentµ testifies to his long-lasting attempt at reconciling artistic and ethical concerns within the tenets of Aestheticism. Wilde first posited an explicit connection between the Romantic temperament and Aestheticism in his lecture on “The English Renaissance of Artµ (1882). However, in De Profundis his views on the Romantic temperament give new meaning to his claims on art and morality, on the role of sorrow, and on the importance of pursuing a form of individualism divested of self-interest. Accordingly, Wilde’s last prose writing illuminates his conception of the Romantic spirit from an aesthetic as well as an ethical perspective

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