Gender and Literature/Art

Inside and Outside: A Spatial Perspective on Oscar Wilde's Salomé

Yao Yijie, Chen Li
East China University of Science and Technology
Journal of Beijing International Studies University 2016-5

Abstract:As the exponent of the aesthetic movement, Oscar Wilde has paid almost excessive attention to the aestheticization of indoor spaces. For him, the humanly-decorated house offers a sense of order and reason, which has, to a large extent, assisted the formation of man's ego and identity, while the outside world, filled with horror, confusion and anxiety, is always associated with the loss of subjectivity and individuality. His topophilia is well manifested in some of his more renowned works, while its fullest expression can no doubt be found in The Decay of Lying, where he would complain in Vivian's voice how "one becomes abstract and impersonal" out of doors. In his one-act tragedy Salomé, however, the event which was traditionally believed to take place within Herod's palace was deliberately set outside the doors. To a certain degree, this arrangement has set the tone for the whole tragedy. Through the employment of the outdoor spaces and the deliberate confusion of the Inside with the Outside, Oscar Wilde has successfully created an atmosphere of madness, absurdity and horror that has haunted Salomé from the very beginning: the outdoor spaces, in facilitating the identification of Salome with the image of Maenad, give the play a touch of madness; Salome's deliberate attempts at confusing the Inside with the Outside, principally motivated by the male gaze that permeates the indoor spaces and costs Salome her subjectivity, was plagued with futility and fruitlessness, from whence came the horror of homelessness that has consummated her tragedy.
Keywords:Oscar Wilde, Salomé, spatial theory, aestheticism, subjectivity

Paper type:Published