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

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 Exupéry’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!

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