June 4, 2023

Foss Publishes Article on Oscar Wilde and Disability

Professor of English Chris Foss has published an article titled “‘For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts’: The Affect of Pity in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’” in the Fall 2017 number of Journal of Narrative Theory, a special issue on Dis/Enabling Narratives edited by Essaka Joshua.   JNT is a refereed, international journal in its fifth decade that “showcases theoretically sophisticated essays that examine narrative in a host of critical, interdisciplinary, or cross-cultural contexts.”

In his article, Foss argues that Wilde’s fairy tale about the death of a performing Dwarf at the Spanish court may appear mired in damaging stereotype and maudlin melodrama, but it nonetheless suggests more progressive emotionally-based possibilities for sympathy, acceptance, and even identification rather than paternalistic pity.  Wilde’s text invites readers to recognize its seemingly simultaneous manipulation of the narrative toward a reliance upon and a critique of the consumption of pain necessary to the workings of the affect of pity.  It further forces readers to acknowledge their own complicity in this pity and pain, ultimately revealing crucial complexities inherent in such emotional responses to disability and difference.