05 April 2012

Victorian Controversies, 1890: Homosexuality

Hardcover, 295 pages
Published 2011 (originally 1890)
Acquired July 2011

Read January 2012
The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition
by Oscar Wilde
edited by Nicholas Frankel

The most commonly reprinted version of The Picture of Dorian Gray is the 1891 novel version, which added several chapters but also removed some of the content, of the novella originally published in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's.  The Lippincott's version has been reprinted from time to time, but never before printed is Wilde's original typescript for the Lippincott's version.  The Lippincott's editors toned down some of the homosexual references in the typescript, and Wilde himself toned down many more for the 1891 version.

Though I think that the editor of this edition, Nicholas Frankel, perhaps overstates the amount of "censorship" that happened (he has a giant, expensive hardcover to sell, after all), this edition still makes for interesting reading.  The cuts are not major, but they are consistent, and it is impossible not see a project of reducing the potentially-scandalous homosexual content of the book as one looks through them.  It is most definitely a worthwhile endeavor, then, for the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray as Wilde originally intended it to have finally taken place.

In addition, this edition features extensive annotations, which are quite helpful in explaining Wilde's heavily referential work and in placing him in context. (I was pleased to see a couple references to Professor J. Kerry Powell, in whose Miami University seminar on "performativity" I read Dorian Gray some five years ago now.) Also, there are lots of full-color pictures, of people and things mentioned, as well from various adaptations.  It's a beautiful book, and well worth owning simply because of that if nothing else.

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