"Play[ing] Narcissus to a photograph": Oscar Wilde and the image of the child

Smith, Lindsay (2017) "Play[ing] Narcissus to a photograph": Oscar Wilde and the image of the child. In: Bristow, Joseph (ed.) Oscar Wilde and the cultures of childhood. Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 41-67. ISBN 9783319604107

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This chapter considers the relations between three phenomena: the image of the child in nineteenth-century photography; Oscar Wilde’s interest in the photographic medium; and the presence of photographic metaphors in several of his fairy stories. The main argument is that Wilde’s fairy tales invite their readers to contemplate the child as an image formed by a relatively new technology of vision. Wilde, however, maintained a critical perspective on the narcissistic lure of the photographic image. Part of the discussion explores his important exchanges with the teenager Louis Umfreville Wilkinson, who began a correspondence with Wilde after the writer’s release from jail. Moreover, the schoolboy Wilkinson sent photographs of himself to Wilde. Wilde’s letters to the young Wilkinson reveal a pressing concern with the temptation to “play Narcissus to a photograph,” since the image onto which one projects one’s desires is also an image of oneself.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Photography and Visual Culture
Depositing User: Lindsay Smith
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2018 13:52
Last Modified: 26 May 2021 11:09
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/77036
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