March 4, 2005
Shimer President William Craig Rice to lecture on Oscar Wilde
William Craig Rice, President of Shimer College, will give a lecture entitled “Literature on Trial: The Case Against Mr. Oscar Wilde” on March 4 at the offices of the Great Books Foundation in downtown Chicago. His lecture is part of the Great Books Foundation Friday Forum Series, co-sponsored by ShimerCollege, the Great Books Foundation, and the College of the Humanities and Sciences.
The tragedy of Oscar Wilde, the world’s first gay martyr, stemmed from several causes beyond the criminalizing of homosexuality in Victorian England: his folly in challenging a nobleman; his marginal status as an Irishman in London; his employment of prostitutes; his unwillingness to flee abroad when friends prepared the way. But it was the literary character of the trials that gave them power then and enduring fascination today.
Bill Rice will review key literary moments of the Wilde case, including Wilde’s courtroom defense of suppressed passages from his masterpieces, notably The Picture of Dorian Gray. Rice will then share his puzzlement over how literature, as it approaches greatness, seems to exist in a legal vacuum but not a social or moral vacuum, and speculate on why Wilde’s brilliant, amusing and subversive doctrines proved such a tempting target to moral crusaders of his age.
Friday Forum meetings are scheduled for 3 p.m. at the offices of the Great Books Foundation in the Chicago Loop, 35 E. Wacker Drive, between State and Wabash, 23rd floor. Admission is free. Presentations precede discussion and socializing over refreshments.