Artistic (mis)representation and commodity culture in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The House of Mirth

Taylor, Evan
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"Artistic (Mis)representation and Commodity Culture in The Picture of Dorian Gray and The House of Mirth" attempts to establish a trans-Atlantic connection between authors Oscar Wilde and Edith Wharton by considering the manner in which each author's respective protagonist relates to art, commodities, and the society in which he or she lives. By reading Dorian Gray and Lily Bart through the lens of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation (1981), the companion chapters show the extent to which each character's reality is complicated by his or her illusory relationship with both fine arts and social artistry. The first of these chapters, "Portrait-Induced Madness: Artistic Representation and Simulation in The Picture of Dorian Gray" considers Dorian's uncanny relationship with the portrait that bears the sins of his soul as a representation of double-simulation wherein Dorian's unchanging appearance and the portrait's grotesque transformations are the consequence of artist Basil Hallward's departure from ethical artistic creation. The second chapter, "Object d'art for Sale: Lily Bart's Self-Commodification and Simulation in The House of Mirth," traces Lily's social maneuverings through fashionable New York society in order to show how her supposedly artistic attempts to attract a suitor result in her treatment as a social commodity instead. The tragic fates of each author's protagonist ultimately suggests that even though they are active participants in the consumer culture of their time, Wilde and Wharton experience and express severe anxieties concerning how anyone can remain unique or artful in a society that dictates an individual's material desires.

English (Literature), English, Literature, art, commodification, representation, simulation, Wharton, Wilde