What is this blog all about?


Thanks for visiting our blog. I am assuming that since you are here you are probably in English 206 at SFU this spring semester, or you are Stephen Zillwood. Welcome! This blog is our submission for our term end project; it contains great information pertaining to what was hip and happening in Victorian times! We have recorded a small radio play from the final act of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest". Feel free to listen to our recording. We have a summary of the first part for you in addition to the final act read aloud for your listening pleasure. Perhaps if you do not feel like reading the play this is just what you need. In addition to the recording we have posted a few small articles about various cool things occurring at the same time the play was taking the world by storm. Please enjoy exploring our blog and listening to our play.

Thanks from the Victorian Cool Cats,

Laila Barker
Jose Olaguera
Elena Quast
David Vo

Our Radio Play!

Blogspot is fussy about links to SFU Webspace accounts apparently, so to get our radio play, simply copy


into your address bar. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

2002 Film Version Review

Elena's Post #2
The Importance of Being Earnest – Movie Review

The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench is an enjoyable and witty comedy based on the play written by Oscar Wilde. The movie is similar to the play, with the lines being quite similar to the original play. However, there are added scenes, such as the beginning scene of Jack leaving the country, Gwendolen’s tattoo, the dispute over the bill and the scene with Miss Prism discovering the paintings of herself. These are all done to make for more interesting character relations and to make the movie more comedic. The movie does not follow the play chronologically; rather it skips back and forth between scenes. In the movie, many elements of the play are romanticized and almost seem to be over the top. For example, the movie adds Algernon arriving at Jack’s estate in a hot air balloon seems to be unnecessary. Also there are two incredibly romanticized scenes that occur in the movie, and it seems as if they were purposely meant to be over the top. These occur when Algernon and Cecily meet for the first time and are kissing on the lawn. The music, costume and setting all become quite elaborate. This also occurs at the very end when all four characters realize the importance of being Earnest. There are also many small changes that seem to be completely unnecessary. For example, in the book Jack says that he is twenty-nine but in the movie he states that he is thirty-five. While most of the changes are quite small, the movie ends with an incredibly large change. In the play, Jack’s name turns out in the end to actually be Earnest. In the movie however, Jack looks in the book and then announces that his name is Earnest. The movie then shows Lady Bracknell open the page of the book and see that his name is not in fact Earnest but that it is John. She does not say anything and everyone goes on thinking his name is Earnest. This change was done for comedic effect, but the original was already quite comedic with Jack lying the whole time about something that was actually true. However, the movie generally is quite similar to the play and is an entertaining movie love and deception.


Laila Barker's Post
Why Are We Eating Crumpets in Class?

On the day of our presentation you will all be treated to a lovely feast of crumpets with melted butter. Why? The answer is simple, Algernon loved crumpets, and so do we. Crumpets are a quintessential British delicacy. They have been around for hundreds of years, and always a popular refreshment. In "The Importance of Being Earnest", when they refer to 'muffins' they are not talking about what we today know as muffins, they are referring to our beloved crumpet. This is why we are feeding them to you. Crumpets are primarily consumed in the UK, and other commonwealth countries, like Canada. We feel that eating a crumpet, and discussin Wilde will create the perfect atmosphere of Victorian Cool. In addition to this, we are most likely not allowed to serve gin, which I would have preferred. If you ever happen to find yourself reading Wilde for pleasure, which I often do, I recommend a nice Tanqueray and Tonic with a golden buttery crumpet. Cheers!

Who is Oscar Wilde?

Laila's Post #1
Who is Oscar Wilde?

"I have nothing to declare but my genius", is a famous quote of Oscar Wilde's made upon arriving at port in New York city. This grandiose claim gives a hint at his over the top personality and robust character. Oscar Wilde was a colourful and lively fellow who turned the world upside down with his sensational writing, and scandalous personal life. Wilde described himself stating, "He hasn't a single redeeming vice," (Henderson et al. 1977). As scandalous as his personal life may have been, it only contributed to his writings and created greater fame for Wilde.
Wilde was born in Dublin to parents also of noteable fame as writers, and in his father's case a surgeon of ill repute. In 1874 Wilde left Ireland to attend Oxford University. Upon graduation, Wilde drifted about society, and soon became a popular mover and shaker in the London social scene. Wilde was known to be an Aesthetic, someone who dressed outrageously and foppish and acted in a similar fashion. He was famous before he even began to publish. (Henderson, 1977).
Throughout his career, Wilde penned many poems, and plays, but only one novel, "The Picture of Dorian Grey". It was this novel that would lead to his downfall. Despite Wilde's marriage to a woman, he was accused of being a homosexual in 1895, shortly after the publication of the "Importance of being Earnest". He never made much attempt to conceal his homosexual relationships, and had many male lovers, and this casual attitude as well as the homosexual themes in his novel, lead to him being charged with the crime of being a homosexual, under the charge of committing indecent acts. He served two years hard labour, and was reputed to never be the same again. (Henderson, 1980).
After his conviction, his plays being shown were closed. Wilde was penniless and broken spirited. His friends and family shunned him. He moved to Paris, and died poor, claiming, "I am dying beyond my means" (Henderson, 1980).
Although we tend to focus on this scandal that rocked Wide's life when we think about who he was as a person, it is important to reflect upon his writings, and his contributions to the literary world. Wilde's life is celebrated in Paris, and other parts of Europe, by the Oscar Wilde Society, every year with a festival. If one truly wants to understand Wilde's writings, do not read them with the view that he was a homosexual, rather view them while keeping in mind all the other aspects of his personality, such as his Aestheticism and his love of satire. Wilde's work is scarcely influenced by his sexuality. Therefore, do not think of this much when reading Wilde. Wilde was more than most of his biographies tend to discuss. His personal scandal tends to outshine other aspects of his character that greater influence his writings. To truly appreciate his work, learn more about his character and beliefs, which you can accomplish by visiting his website, linked to in this blog.

A Summary

Elena’s Blog Entry #1
A Summary of the Events
Prior to Act III

Jack Worthing is the guardian of Cecily Cardew. Jack Worthing was adopted by Mr. Thomas Cardew, who found Jack when he was a baby. For years,Jack has pretended to have an irresponsible brother named Ernest who leads a scandalous life that requires Jack to rush grimly off to his assistance. Ernest is merely Jack’s alibi, and is the name he goes by in London. To add to this confusion, Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, the cousin of his best friend,Algernon Moncrieff.
Algernon suspects that Jack may be leading a double life, and pressured by his friend, he tells Algernon about his fictional brother. Gwendolen makes clear that she would not consider marrying a man who was not named Ernest. Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother, forbids the match between Jack and Gwendolen. Meanwhile, Algernon shows up at Jack’s country estate posing as Jack’s brother Ernest. Meanwhile, Jack arrives home with a story about Ernest having died suddenly in Paris. He is enraged to find Algernon there masquerading as Ernest but has to go along with it.
Algernon falls in love with Cecily and asks her to marry him. She agrees, but he finds outs that Cecily’s interest in him is solely due to the name “Ernest”. Thanks to the name confusion, both Gwendolyn and Cecily think they are engaged to the same man. Jack and Algernon arrive at the climax of this confrontation, each having separately made arrangements to be christened Ernest later that day. The two women demand to know where Jack’s brother Ernest is, since both of them are engaged to be married to him. Jack is forced to admit that he has no brother and that Ernest is a complete fiction. Both women are shocked and furious, and they retire to the house arm in arm.

The Popularity of "The Importance of Being Earnest"

DVo’s Blog Entry #1
The Popularity and Reception of Earnest
At the Time of Its Release

The “Importance of Being Earnest,” is a comical and whimsical play that addresses issues of gender and its influence in society. Oscar Wilde, one of the great writers of the Victorian era, utilizes a variety of interesting and humourous language to keep both spectators and readers in tune, helping them to stay focused.
The play first came into production on February 14, 1985. The play was set in England in the late Victorian era. The humor of the play is found in characters attempting to maintain fake identities allowing them to escape from their social obligations. Wilde’s play was very successful and well received by the public. Future work from Wilde was always on a high demand. To date, there have been three film versions and two play adaptations of Wilde’s original play. In fact, Oscar Wilde set a standard in drama that is still looked upon with respect till present day. Many productions that are in the works or being released are sized up and compared to the standard that Wilde has set.

The Relationship between Gender in Earnest and Other Writers of the Period

DVo’s Blog Entry #2
The Relationship between Gender in Earnest
and Other Writers of the Perio

In the play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde focuses intensely on the role of gender. Throughout the study of drama, the role of gender has been used to portray how women influence society, and as the play unfolds, the significance of this influence is revealed. The two main male characters, Algernon and Jack, live their lives in a fake manner, and both characters are willing to do anything to be wsith their love interests.
Here, Wilde portrays how women influence men and society. By utilizing their role as females, Gwendolen and Cecily are able to ultimately make their men do whatever they please. This is important to Victorian Culture as a whole because it was during this time that significant changes in society were being made. The Victorian era largely marked the end of traditional female roles in society. As a result of the mass education of the middle class, they had a variety of opportunities to provide a better life for themselves.
This is also portrayed in George Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee. Both Wilde and Gissing emphasize the significance of gender in their texts, although in Jubilee, the liberation of the female identity is not as celebrated as it is in Earnest. However, both works stress that many significant changes were taking place near the end of the Victorian period, a paradigm shift that would see the emergence of many new ideas and the increasing power of the Woman.

It's Still Important tp Be Earnest

Billy’s Blog Entry #1
It’s Still Important to Be Earnest:
The Enduring Significance of Wilde’s Play
and its Farcical Critique on Victorian So

When Oscar Wilde’s highly entertaining and farcical play opened at St. James’ Theater on February 14, 1895, Wilde himself was enjoying the height of his fame as a popular dramatist. My first contact with Wilde came in my childhood, and although I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to read The Portrait of Dorian Grey, I remember his short stories, including “The Happy Prince”, “The Nightingale and the Rose”, and “The Selfish Giant”, with great affection. All three stories struck me, even as child, with a special kind of melancholy that touched my heart deeply. I recall crying heartily at the outcome of the nightingale and again at the gradual re-formation of the giant—in these simple, child’s stories lay deeper themes that sank into my being with metaphysical significance.
Here is a man able to communicate to one’s soul on an incredibly deep level, and that is the mark of a great craftsman and storyteller. In these stories, at least, lies the same genius able to affect Antoine de Saint ExupĂ©ry’s Le petit prince with such moving character. The reader is forced to ask questions about what it means to struggle in a world that can often be harsh, cold, and unfeeling—a world that Wilde himself was to journey through in the last stages of his life.
If one could guess as to the outcome that would come to such a soul as Wilde’s—for its sensitivity was indeed broken by the public humiliation and scorn imprisonment brought him—no one would believe that it could have been so tragic, especially after experiencing the brevity and light-heartedness of a play such as The Importance of Being Earnest. This whimsical and light comedy was introduced to me approximately five years ago, when my older sister brought home the 2002 big screen adaptation starring Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, and Frances O’Connor. “Come watch a Victorian movie with me!” she said, and having enjoyed such movie-adapted stories as Jane Austen’s Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, I dove right in, not knowing what I was getting into.
As the movie synopsis will be provided by Elena, I shall digress from describing the plot. Instead, I will jump into what this very special play does for me—and that “what” is just about as multi-layered as the very play itself. For one thing, I really enjoy how Wilde is able to play around with words and subvert the English language in such a way as to draw attention to the aspects of Victorian life and coded behavior that have to do with class and appearance. “We live in a world of Ideals,” Gwendolen Fairfax asserts in Act I, words springing from the mouth of Wilde himself. Her ideal, that of only marrying a man named Ernest, is so patently absurd that one is forced to generously suspend their judgment in order to appreciate the pure genius of it. For what exactly were the ideals so pre-eminent in Wilde’s Victorian upper-middle class world?
If we are to take the feisty Lady Augusta Bracknell as an example, these high-minded “ideals” are nothing more than catty social norms threaded through with scruples regarding dress code, moral stricture, and family background—all very superficial and auxiliary values that have nothing to do with someone’s personal character or merit. I cannot forget her words,
A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her…We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces. (3.1)
The utter irony of it is first-rate genius. And again as she says,
…no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating. … [In a meditative manner.] (3.1) while in the same breath haughtily calculating the value of her own words of wisdom. But it is not merely Lady Bracknell’s trifles and gripes about the decay of her modern world—a world of which she nevertheless heartily approves—that carry the story forward, despite their brilliant absurdity. The key lies also in the fantastically complicated and absurd situations people who have too much time in their hands get into as a result of their luxury and moral laxity. Algernon and Jack invent false personas for themselves in order to function in a high-class milieu that demands too much of them; Cecily and Gwendolyn both dream about marrying their Ernests; Lady Bracknell—her stately chin “worn very high, just at present!” (3.1)—wanders in and out of the play’s scenes, a woman seemingly in strict control of herself in every situation yet miraculously oblivious to the goings-on about her until the very end. It is, in fact, in Act III where all the action is all satisfyingly tied up, and the whole mess brought laughingly to a close. The Importance of Being Earnest marks a real watershed in Wilde’s career as a playwright, and thankfully it is getting the attention that it rightly deserves in any Victorian Lit course. I hope you enjoy our audio presentation of Act III in all its wit and colour!