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Salome's Modernity

Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression

Subjects: Cultural Studies, History, Intellectual History, Literary Studies, British and Irish Literatures, Theater and Performance
Paperback : 9780472036042, 260 pages, 4 B&W illustrations, 6 x 9, July 2014
Hardcover : 9780472117673, 260 pages, 4 B&W illustrations, 6 x 9, April 2011
Audiobook : 9780472004119, 260 pages, 6 x 9, May 2021
Ebook : 9780472027545, 260 pages, 4 halftones, June 2011
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A study of Oscar Wilde's Salomé in modernist and postmodernist literature and culture

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Copyright © 2011, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


Oscar Wilde's 1891 symbolist tragedy Salomé has had a rich afterlife in literature, opera, dance, film, and popular culture. Salome's Modernity: Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetics of Transgression is the first comprehensive scholarly exploration of that extraordinary resonance that persists to the present. Petra Dierkes-Thrun positions Wilde as a founding figure of modernism and Salomé as a key text in modern culture's preoccupation with erotic and aesthetic transgression, arguing that Wilde's Salomé marks a major turning point from a dominant traditional cultural, moral, and religious outlook to a utopian aesthetic of erotic and artistic transgression. Wilde and Salomé are seen to represent a bridge linking the philosophical and artistic projects of writers such as Mallarmé, Pater, and Nietzsche to modernist and postmodernist literature and philosophy and our contemporary culture. Dierkes-Thrun addresses subsequent representations of Salome in a wide range of artistic productions of both high and popular culture through the works of Richard Strauss, Maud Allan, Alla Nazimova, Ken Russell, Suri Krishnamma, Robert Altman, Tom Robbins, and Nick Cave, among others.

Petra Dierkes-Thrun is Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at Stanford University and editor in chief of The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies, a scholarly online journal dedicated to the figure of the New Woman in fin de siècle and modernist society and culture.

"This thorough, and thoroughly original, monograph is quite impressive ... because she explores the play from so many diverse angles, Dierkes-Thrun makes a book dedicated to one play engrossing."

- Helena Gurfinkel

"In addition to the rhetorically and interpretatively compelling reading of the final scene of Salome, the book’s core is lively and suggestive: the revisionary reading of Strauss; the detailed evocation of the toxicity surrounding Wilde and his work that continued through and past World War I, reinforced by reactionary xenophobia during the war; the linking of Allan and, especially, Nazimova with feminist and queer cultural politics; the reading of Nazimova’s notable career through the combined lens of Ibsen and Wilde. These are significant contributions that later commentators on Wilde’s play and its heritage in the modernist period and beyond will need to take into account."
Modern Drama

- John Paul Riquelme

"Salome’s Modernity stands as a fresh, valuable contribution to studies of Oscar Wilde."

- S. I. Salamensky, University of California, Los Angeles