Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘Rebels in the name of beauty’

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‘Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche: “Rebels in the Name of Beauty” ’ reconsiders the intellectual confluence of Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche. It is unlikely that Wilde and Nietzsche knew of each other. Yet, similarities between their conceptions of truth, aesthetic experience, individualism, and ethics, as well as their highly evocative, aphoristic styles, have drawn a large number of critics – from Thomas Mann to Patrick Bridgwater and Julia Prewitt Brown – to compare them. Such comparisons have, though, been brief and often focused on biographical parallels. This article provides, therefore, the first substantial discussion of the dynamics between the ideas of Wilde and Nietzsche. It argues that the parallels between Wilde and Nietzsche centre on their Romantic Individualism, and the shared belief that the individual ‘become[s] himself’ through aesthetic experience. The textual foci are four works written within three years of each other: Nietzsche’s The Antichrist (1888) and Twilight of the Idols (1889), and Wilde’s ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’ (1891) and ‘The Critic as Artist’ (1891). These works, I argue, define Romantic Individualism through the strikingly similar, secular, appropriation of Jesus, whilst stylistically exemplifying the way in which the Romantic Individual may be brought into being through the experience of literary art.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-220
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Edinburgh University Press.


  • aesthetics
  • individualism
  • Jesus
  • Romanticism
  • truth


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