'I love acting - it is so much more real than life,' Oscar Wilde famously wrote. Acting Wilde demonstrates that Wilde's plays, fiction, and critical theory are organised by the idea that all so-called 'reality' is a mode of performance, and that the 'meanings' of life are really the scripted elements of a dramatic spectacle. Wilde's real issue was whether one could become the author of his own script, the creator of the character and role he inhabits. It was a question he struggled to answer from the beginning of his career to the end, whether in his position as the pre-eminent dramatist in English or as the beleaguered defendant on trial for 'gross indecency'. Introducing important evidence from Wilde's career-launching tour of America, the often tortured revisions of his plays, and the recently discovered written record of his first courtroom trial, this book reconstructs Wilde's strategic dramatising of himself.
Introduction: Acting Wilde; 1. Posing and dis-posing: Oscar Wilde in America and beyond; 2. Pure Wilde: feminism and masculinity in Lady Windermere's Fan, Salomé, and A Woman of No Importance; 3. Performance anxiety in An Ideal Husband; 4. Performativity and history: The Importance of Being Earnest; 5. The 'lost' transcript, sexual acting, and the meaning of Wilde's trials; 6. Prison performativity; Epilogue: Wilde and modern drama; Bibliography of manuscripts and printed sources.
Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010
"the distinguished critic of late nineteenth-century theater, Kerry Powell, presents a revisionary reading of Wilde’s career...Powell’s readings of the plays as involving accommodations differ from those of Sos Eltis, who argues compellingly, also based on the playwright’s revisions, for Wilde’s politically liberated views... Those who understand the plays in that liberatory way will find a whetstone in Powell’s strong-minded, suggestive readings."
-John Paul Riquelme, Boston University, Modern Drama Spring 2011