Mirroring the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation
Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation has been a controversial narrative since it appeared in 2002. As the subtitle of the book emphasizes, it is ‘an imitation’ of Oscar Wilde’s well-known myth-making The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in 1890 and 1891. Is Will Self’s piece of fiction a fulfilment of Wilde’s? How does the author trace and rewrite the Irish genius’s classic? How does the text retrieve and transform the cultural and the sexual politics of the model on which it is based? This paper aims at briefly answering these questions, dealing with the way(s) in which Dorian mirrors The Picture of Dorian Gray from a contemporary neo-Victorian perspective which, at the same time, like many present-day narratives in the English language, tries to recover the late Victorian past, establishing significant relationships between the nineteenth-century fin de siècle and our own epoch. Both Self and Wilde are haunted by the Narcissus myth, narcissism, the Doppelganger motif and, ultimately, mirror images. Mirrors trace the multiple reflections of selves, a theme that is recurrent and almost obsessive in both books, which are the product of the inner and outer conflicts of their respective ages. Both of them mirror a period of decadence and excess, of consumerism, of social and political crisis, of sexual ambiguities and reinventions, of projections of disease, of disenchantment and escapism, of psychological insecurity. Taking this into consideration, I will try to analyze the parallelisms between Self’s and Wilde’s texts, paying special attention to their complementary portrayal of cultural, aesthetic and sexual mores, and postulating that neo-Victorianism is very much alive in our present time. Regrettably, the triad syphilis-AIDS- COVID-19 epidemics can also provide a suitable coda in this respect.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Antonio Ballesteros-González, "Mirroring the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation" in: "2020 / 25 Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2020 pp. 65-81