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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

The Persistence of Beauty Public Lecture Series - Ugly Meanings in Beautiful Things: Reading and Desire in Fin-de-Siecle Fiction

31st January 2012, 18:15 to 19:15, Room 140, Elvet Riverside Building, New Elvet, Dr Simon J James (Durham University)

This is the third lecture in The Persistence of Beauty Public Lecture Series.

What might it mean to speak or write in words, of beauty, especially physical beauty? Is to do so always redundant, since beauty itself is beyond the power of language to depict? Is it the case that the literary arts can only ever portray not beauty itself but the effect of beauty? - whether awe, ecstasy, sexual desire.... 

The aesthetics of Oscar Wilde sought to celebrate the artificiality of beauty, severing the Romantic connection of the beautiful from the good on the one side, and the true on the other. This lecture will focus mostly on the first of Wilde's legal trials, in which his opponents sought to find unspeakably 'ugly meanings' in the 'beautiful things' of his literary works.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.