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postgraduate thesis: Oscar Wilde and China in late nineteenth century Britain: aestheticism, orientalism, and the making of modernism

TitleOscar Wilde and China in late nineteenth century Britain: aestheticism, orientalism, and the making of modernism
Authors
Advisors
Advisor(s):Tong, QS
Issue Date2012
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Ding, X. [丁小雨]. (2012). Oscar Wilde and China in late nineteenth century Britain : aestheticism, orientalism, and the making of modernism. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5016278
AbstractThis thesis studies Oscar Wilde’s encounter with the idea of China in late nineteenth century Britain. After Marcartney’s embassy to the Qing court and the two Opium Wars, “China” became an increasingly negative idea in nineteenth century Britain. Wilde’s sympathy with China under such historical circumstances induces reconsiderations of the relationship among aestheticism, orientalism, and modernism. The story of how Wilde utilized and appropriated Chinese culture is at the same time a story about how orientalism was used by British aestheticism to protest against the late Victorian middle-class ideology and invent the politics of modernist aesthetics. This thesis contributes to the study of the idea of China in nineteenth century Britain in general and to the scholarship on Oscar Wilde, aestheticism and modernism in particular. Wilde’s reading of Chuang Tzu and his appreciation of the anti-realist Chinese aesthetic and visual power embodied in patterned blue and white china helped him articulate his aestheticism. The thesis examines Chinese influence on his aesthetic, social and political ideas against British middle-class ideology. The historical contexts of Wilde’s encounter with Chinese philosophy and material culture are also scrutinized to show that China, as an exotic-familiar antithesis to British bourgeois ideology, became a critical point of reference for Wilde to launch his trenchant criticism of Western society. Works and collections by other proponents of British aestheticism, such as James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, are also included to further demonstrate China’s role in the British Aesthetic Movement. The thesis is based on three interrelated central arguments: first, British aestheticism was a reaction to the social problems and consumer culture in late Victorian Britain, and it aims to aestheticize not only art, but also life and society; second, the nineteenth-century British construction of China, especially in the translation and deciphering of Chuang Tzu in early British sinology in Chapter one, and in Chapter Two, blue and white china’s visual anti-realism widely discussed and condemned in the late Victorian mass media, crucially participated in Wilde’s theory of art and British aestheticism in general; third, Wilde’s aestheticism, by incorporating Chinese thought and aesthetics, had experimented with modernist aesthetics before it came to be known as such. Although Wilde and other British aesthetes were complicit in the orientalist construction of China when placing China and the West into a binary position, they revised the nineteenth-century British imperial discourse that subjugated and denigrated the Orient and invested in the kind of Sino-British communication advocating and incorporating the aesthetic values of Chinese culture.
DegreeMaster of Philosophy
SubjectEnglish literature - Chinese influences.
Aestheticism (Literature)
Orientalism in literature.
Modernism (Literature)
Dept/ProgramEnglish

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorTong, QS-
dc.contributor.authorDing, Xiaoyu-
dc.contributor.author丁小雨-
dc.date.issued2012-
dc.identifier.citationDing, X. [丁小雨]. (2012). Oscar Wilde and China in late nineteenth century Britain : aestheticism, orientalism, and the making of modernism. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5016278-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis studies Oscar Wilde’s encounter with the idea of China in late nineteenth century Britain. After Marcartney’s embassy to the Qing court and the two Opium Wars, “China” became an increasingly negative idea in nineteenth century Britain. Wilde’s sympathy with China under such historical circumstances induces reconsiderations of the relationship among aestheticism, orientalism, and modernism. The story of how Wilde utilized and appropriated Chinese culture is at the same time a story about how orientalism was used by British aestheticism to protest against the late Victorian middle-class ideology and invent the politics of modernist aesthetics. This thesis contributes to the study of the idea of China in nineteenth century Britain in general and to the scholarship on Oscar Wilde, aestheticism and modernism in particular. Wilde’s reading of Chuang Tzu and his appreciation of the anti-realist Chinese aesthetic and visual power embodied in patterned blue and white china helped him articulate his aestheticism. The thesis examines Chinese influence on his aesthetic, social and political ideas against British middle-class ideology. The historical contexts of Wilde’s encounter with Chinese philosophy and material culture are also scrutinized to show that China, as an exotic-familiar antithesis to British bourgeois ideology, became a critical point of reference for Wilde to launch his trenchant criticism of Western society. Works and collections by other proponents of British aestheticism, such as James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, are also included to further demonstrate China’s role in the British Aesthetic Movement. The thesis is based on three interrelated central arguments: first, British aestheticism was a reaction to the social problems and consumer culture in late Victorian Britain, and it aims to aestheticize not only art, but also life and society; second, the nineteenth-century British construction of China, especially in the translation and deciphering of Chuang Tzu in early British sinology in Chapter one, and in Chapter Two, blue and white china’s visual anti-realism widely discussed and condemned in the late Victorian mass media, crucially participated in Wilde’s theory of art and British aestheticism in general; third, Wilde’s aestheticism, by incorporating Chinese thought and aesthetics, had experimented with modernist aesthetics before it came to be known as such. Although Wilde and other British aesthetes were complicit in the orientalist construction of China when placing China and the West into a binary position, they revised the nineteenth-century British imperial discourse that subjugated and denigrated the Orient and invested in the kind of Sino-British communication advocating and incorporating the aesthetic values of Chinese culture.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B50162780-
dc.subject.lcshEnglish literature - Chinese influences.-
dc.subject.lcshAestheticism (Literature)-
dc.subject.lcshOrientalism in literature.-
dc.subject.lcshModernism (Literature)-
dc.titleOscar Wilde and China in late nineteenth century Britain: aestheticism, orientalism, and the making of modernism-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5016278-
dc.description.thesisnameMaster of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelMaster-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEnglish-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5016278-
dc.date.hkucongregation2013-

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