By Harold Bloom
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Additional info for Oscar Wilde (Bloom's Modern Critical Views) New Edition
See Schweitzer, “Questions Concerning the Aramaic Language,” in The Quest of the Historical Jesus, pp. 269–79. 14. The grafting of Jesus onto the shepherd-singer of the idyllic convention in Medieval and Renaissance poetry is considered by Peter V. Marinelli, Pastoral (London: Methuen, 1971), and Helen Cooper, Pastoral: Medieval into Renaissance (Ipswich: D. S. Brewer, 1977). 15. My remarks on the Pastoral are informed by H. E. Toliver’s comprehensive study of this subject (Pastoral Forms and Attitudes, Los Angeles.
The true temper” of the artist, furthermore, is compared by Wilde to “what Matthew Arnold called the secret of Jesus” (p. 477). This evokes directly Arnold’s depiction of Christ in Literature and A Poetics for Living: Christ and the Meaning of Sorrow in De Profundis 43 Dogma: “But there remains the question what righteousness really is. The method and secret and sweet reasonableness of Jesus” (chapter XII). 6. See “The Rise of Historical Criticism,” in Complete Works, especially pp. 1130–31. This essay was originally written for the Chancellor’s Essay prize at Oxford (1879) and was not published in the author’s lifetime.
So reading Ulysses, if that book is properly understood, is a means of emancipation. One is freed by it to read about freedom. Decadence, then, had its uses for Wilde, Yeats and Joyce, as a pivot around which they could organize their work. All in their different ways summon up an opposite to decadence, the promise of an “unfashionable” age for which as artists they constitute themselves heralds. They are not decadents but counterdecadents. Or we could say that they went through decadence to come out on the other side.
Oscar Wilde (Bloom's Modern Critical Views) New Edition by Harold Bloom