Brainstorming Interpretation Questions for “Pen, Pencil and Poison” by Oscar Wilde


Today’s brainstorming is not about initial statements or opinions about the text we’ll be discussing, but instead about questions.  Please think of one or two excellent question(s) you think we should ask of this text today in order to investigate and discuss it as fully or deeply as possible.  Time: 2 minutes.

Here are the questions students came up with spontaneously, at the beginning of class: 

How does one classify this essay?  Is it biography? A form of creative nonfiction? How does Wainewright relate to Wilde? –KJO

Why did Oscar Wilde choose to write about this particular man, Thomas Wainewright?  -CAN

Why is the subtitle “Study in Green”? –IPN

Are Wilde’s appeals to “truth” in the essay meant to refer to an objective truth?  -MP

On what grounds can art be defined and judged?  -YG

Why does Wilde choose to write about Wainewright given that his literature alone is not worth remembering? –LN

Why is the biography of Wainewright, especially the discussion of his poisoning others, juxtaposed with his ideas about art and passages about art in this paper?  -ER

In what manner is Wainewright’s art affected by his dark past?  -?

Are the critic and description of works of art somehow similar to prose poetry? What about the art of poisons?  -RC

Why is it that Oscar Wilde puts poisoning or murder on the same artistic pedestal as writing or painting? –MCR

Why does Wilde leave the description of Wainewright’s crimes to the very end of the essay?  -LH

Why is the revelation of the poisoning so casually inserted and given little significance? –DF

What is the relationship between art and criminal activities, specifically, Wainewright’s criminal activities?  -MG

To what extent does Wilde believe the act of writing or or creating art is just as poisonous as the act of poisoning?  -JSW

Why construe this piece as a “memoir” that claims “facts” (p. 1106) rather than as a more overtly fictional work, as he did in “Decay of Lying”? –AA

What does Wilde mean when he suggests that the aim of art is to have “a style so gorgeous that it conceals its subject”?  -Alcibiades

1 Comment

Filed under Exercises, Reading questions, Week 6 Reviews: Wilde's criticism in Intentions

One response to “Brainstorming Interpretation Questions for “Pen, Pencil and Poison” by Oscar Wilde

  1. Pingback: Lecture notes: Wilde, “Pen, Pencil and Poison” | Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents

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