Irish Celtic folklore in The picture of Dorian Gray

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Upchurch, David A.
Jennings, C. Wade
Issue Date
Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of English
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Although critics have studied Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray for nearly one hundred years, no one has examined the author's Irish Celtic heritage in relation to such unanswered questions as the source for the supernatural power that grants Dorian's wish to remain young and creates the central conflict, the purpose of the eleventh chapter, or the apparent "overwriting" or "purple patches" of prose.As a result, the novel has remained elusive, yet fascinating, to both critics and readers. This study asserts that the problem with the traditional approaches critics have taken to solve these questions is that Dorian_ Gray does not entirely belong to mainstream British literary tradition. It also belongs in part to Irish Celtic literature.Consequently, the answers to these unresolved "mysteries" become part of a natural, even inevitable culmination of Irish folklore placed in a Victorian London setting. questions lie in Wilde's Irish background. By looking at the mythology and folklore of Wilde's native Ireland, the “mysteries” become part of a natural, even inevitable culmination of Irish folklore placed in a Victorian London setting.This study's approach to Dorian Gray combines both historical and textual study and builds upon the already substantial number of source studies and biographies available. Moreover, this study examines the almost entirely unexplored background of Wilde's Irish past in the novel which relates to Irish literature. In addition to these components, this paper also offers explanations for the source of the supernatural elements, the problems within the eleventh chapter, and the strategy of the overall structure. Finally this study examines the satirical elements that have their origin in Irish folklore. In many ways, this analysis unifies the other, often conflicting, approaches by explaining these previously misunderstood elements.