Oscar Wilde and East Asia: Empire, Nation-State, and the Globalisation of Aestheticism

Qi Chen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

4534 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis provides a new insight into the cosmopolitanism of Oscar Wilde, enlarging understanding of Wilde in a broader than national context. It illustrates how the interaction between the British Empire and the Far East contributed to Wilde’s aestheticism and literary career, and how his writings were translated, comprehended and transformed in the Far East.
The first part, ‘East Asia of Oscar Wilde: The Aesthetic Movement in the Empire’, explores the multi-relationships of the aesthetic movement, the British Empire, and the global circulation of Oriental (Chinese and Japanese) commodities/immigrants/ideas, arguing Wilde’s writings were cultural products of globalisation. The aesthetic movement was part of the Victorian mass culture, and closely tied to the expansion of the British Empire in the Far East in the late nineteenth century. It perceives Wilde’s aestheticism and his participation in the British aesthetic movement as economies and politics within global commerce following the Industrial Revolution, at a time when there were accelerated movements of peoples and ideas across national borders within the British Empire.
The second part, ‘Oscar Wilde in East Asia: Aestheticism and National Modernisation’ examines the reception, comprehension and adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s writings in the turbulent socio-cultural context of modern Japan and China during the early twentieth century. It analyses the literary, cultural and social impacts of Wilde on the modernisation of Japanese and Chinese cultural identities, investigating reader response to Wilde’s writings in East Asia associated with the self-narration of emerging nation-states.
It concludes with ‘Oscar Wilde’s Aestheticism and the Global Circulation of Modernity’, summarising the research on Wilde, aestheticism, and the aesthetic movement against the historical background of globalisation and modernisation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Varty, Anne, Supervisor
Award date1 Jan 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

Cite this