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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

2. Introduction – Part II

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About this Lecture


In this module, we continue thinking about the literary, cultural and historical context of The Importance of Being Earnest, focusing in particular on: (i) the concept of the Victorian Compromise, i.e. the combination of public virtues and private vices, epitomised by figures such as Mr Podsnap and the Veneerings in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend (1865); (ii) the social realism of the plays of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Arthur Wing Pinero (1855-1934) and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), and of the novels of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928); (iii) decadence and aestheticism, and the artwork of Aubrey Beardsley; (iv) the long tradition of comedy and satire by Irish writers, including Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), William Congreve (1670-1729) and Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), and the continuation of the tradition in writers such as Samuel Beckett (1906-89); and (v) Wilde's own Irish heritage, and the influence of his mother, 'Speranza'.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. In the first three lectures, we provide a broad introduction to the play, thinking about the life and career of Oscar Wilde, as well as the social, cultural and literary context of the play itself. After that, in the following twelve modules, we read through the entire play from start to finish, thinking about the character, setting, stagecraft, key themes and motifs, and critical opinion.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, April 23). Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest - Introduction – Part II [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Introduction – Part II." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,