The Role and Treatment of Beauty in the Novel

The Role and Treatment of Beauty in the Novel SOURCES: What is the role and treatment of beauty and/or aesthetics in the novel, and how might it reveal a particular theme?

The Role and Treatment of Beauty in the Novel
The Role and Treatment of Beauty in the Novel

It is your decision whether or not to use secondary sources for this paper. (Keep in mind that one of the papers you include in your final portfolio
of writing must include research from secondary sources.) Many of the topics listed below do lend themselves well to research, and I encourage you to do it.
There is a wealth of excellent, authoritative, easily accessible critical sources on Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the literary movements with
which Wilde is associated. You will find some included in the Norton Critical Edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is the edition I required for
class. Also, I will be placing the following books on reserve in the library for your reference:
? The Artist as Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde, edited by Richard Ellmann
? The Trials of Oscar Wilde, by H. Montgomery Hyde
? The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, by Walter Pater (Many of Wilde?s
ideas about the role of art come from Pater.)
WARNING: Reading-aid websites such as Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, etc., are NOT reliable, valid scholarly sources and therefore should not be used. I would
prefer you not consult these types of websites at all for this paper.
A NOTE ON WIKIPEDIA: Wikipedia can be a good starting point for general information on your topic, but it should never be used as an actual source for your
analysis. You might find some other helpful resources for your research by scrolling down to the bottom of the Wikipedia entry and looking at the
bibliography and links listed there.
FORMAT AND CONTENT: Direct quotations and paraphrases are required. You must use Chicago Manual of Style formatting and include footnotes/endnotes AND a
bibliography. This should be a thesis-driven paper in which you will present your own interpretation of some aspect of the novel. You will make your
interpretation convincing by providing evidence from the plot and characterization of the novel (and from your research, if you did any) and by analyzing
that evidence to show how it illustrates your thesis.
NOTE: Some of these topics are rather broad or vague. They are meant to get
your thinking started….Your actual thesis should be specific and narrow enough for a paper of at least four pages.
1) What does The Picture of Dorian Gray suggest about the connection(s) between art and life?
2) Choose one of the aphorisms in the preface and show how the novel either proves or disproves it.
3) How does knowledge come into play in the novel? What does each character know? What is kept secret, and from whom? What do you as a reader know? Are you
?in? on any secrets that the characters aren?t aware of? How does a character?s level of knowledge affect his or her personality, motivations, actions, etc.?
How does knowledge affect the plot events that unfold?
4) What message or impression does the novel give about the artist (his identity, his role in society, his relation to others, etc.), and how does Oscar
Wilde convey this message through the novel?s plot, characterization, theme, or style? (You might want to refer to Wilde?s ?Lecture to Art Students? or his
aphorisms in the Preface.)
5) What is the role and treatment of beauty and/or aesthetics in the novel, and how might it reveal a particular theme?
6) How is the concept of accountability treated in the novel, and how might it reveal a particular theme?
7) Might we read The Picture of Dorian Gray as another version of the Faust legend? How so? How does Dorian?s experience compare to Doctor Faustus? in
Christopher Marlowe?s version of the tale?
8) Consider the novel from a psychological or psychosocial perspective. What does Wilde reveal or convey about the nature and development of the self in The
Picture of Dorian Gray?
9) How does the form or style of Wilde?s novel help convey a particular theme? (For this topic, you might discuss a literary device such as diction,
foreshadowing, figurative language, description, point- of-view, the epigram, etc.)
10) Is there a moral message for the reader in The Picture of Dorian Gray? If so, what is it, and how does Wilde convey it through the content and form of
the novel? If you think there is not a moral message, consider how the novel treats issues or situations that are commonly referred to as moral concerns. Is
the novel amoral? Immoral? Or do you see it as an illustration of Wilde?s claim in the Preface that ?[t]here is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.?? Explain. (If you want to include research in this essay, you might want to read about the
controversy surrounding the novel by its first critics, and Wilde?s defense of it (and perhaps Wilde?s own legal situation surrounding his conviction for ?
gross indecency?).
11) Is The Picture of Dorian Gray a novel of its time and place (Victorian England)? Why or why not? Use both the novel and your own research to support your
12) Research Hedonism, Epicureanism, or the Aesthetic movement. How does The Picture of Dorian Gray show or comment on one of these movements?
13) Critics have called The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde?s most autobiographical work. Research Wilde?s life in depth (using scholarly sources such as
journal articles or books and possibly, in addition, authoritative Internet sources), and in your essay discuss what the novel reveals about Wilde himself.

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