June 20, 2024

Foss Presents Paper on Oscar Wilde

Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper, “‘He is so ugly that he might have made the King smile’: Disability and Materiality in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’” at the annual meeting of the Nineteenth Century Studies Association, held this year in Boston, Massachusetts on Saturday, March 27.

Foss explored how reading Wilde’s fairy tale as a critical rewriting of Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop invites readers to (re)experience littleness/disability from within the context of Victorian freak show dynamics. Dickens’s novel is the story of how a very beautiful and impossibly good 13-year-old girl, Little Nell, is hounded to her grave by the ugly, deformed dwarf Daniel Quilp; conversely, Wilde’s story is about an ugly, deformed dwarf whose tragic death is hastened by a very beautiful and surprisingly cruel 12-year-old girl, the Infanta.

Overall, in spite of his own aversion to sentimentality in general, and to Dickensian sentimentality in particular (Wilde once quipped, “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing”), Wilde encourages a sincerely sympathetic response to his dwarf, not only drawing him as a kind and gentle soul but actually positioning him in the role of true lover.  While the dwarf’s sad fate may seem to foster a sense of hopelessness about the general cultural detachment from (if not actual delight in) the dehumanization of freaks/human oddities, Wilde’s fairy tale remains a significant text for its powerful representation of the terrible cruelty inherent in the nondisabled abjection of the disabled body as an undesirable and, ultimately, disposable thing.  What is more, Wilde shows himself to be a writer fully aware of his own role as manipulator /showman/exploiter of his characters who asks readers both to recognize his authorial complicity in the consumption of pain but also to acknowledge their own complicity in this as readers/spectators/consumers.

Foss Presents Paper at International Conference on Romanticism

Figure talking about Kasiprasad Ghosh

Figure talking about Kasiprasad Ghosh

On Saturday, Sept. 27, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper at the annual meeting of the International Conference on Romanticism, held this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His talk was entitled “The (Western?) Mirror and(/or?) the (Eastern?) Lamp: Romantic Reflection, Rejection, and Revision in Kasiprasad Ghosh’s The Sháïr and Other Poems.”  After begging forgiveness re: his embarrassing weakness for parentheses and question marks in titles, Foss argued that Ghosh’s Sháïr (1830), as the very first volume of English-language poems published by a Hindu writer, is an absolutely essential text to be accounted for within any full consideration of the international aspects of Romanticism in general and/or the question of Romantic reflections in particular.  Along the way, he teased out some of the various possibilities whereby one may position Ghosh as uncritically reflecting back the British orientalist version of Indian poetry, carefully revising and subtly transforming orientalist poetics into a new hybrid expression, and/or ultimately rejecting orientalism in favor of a distinctly transgressive and properly Indian poetics of resistance.  The theme of this year’s conference in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters (and, more particularly, in the Twin Cities) was, appropriately enough, “Romantic Reflections: Twins, Echoes, and Appropriations.”

Foss Presents Paper on Oscar Wilde

Chris Foss, Professor of English, presented a paper entitled “Gothic Decadence: Tracing Transformations of Byron and Shelley in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray” at the annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association on April 4 in Harrisburg, Pa.

Foss Provides Remarks on Autism as Roundtable Participant

Chris Foss, professor of English, served as one of five panelists for a session entitled “Paid in Full: Autisms, Debts, Dissents” at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association on Nov. 22 in Washington, D.C.  Foss’s remarks focused on the ongoing efforts by both autistic self-advocacy groups and individual bloggers to counter the largely cure-based agenda of the most powerful autism organization today, Autism Speaks. For many autistics, and an increasing number of their allies, Autism Speaks engages in relentless stereotyping and fearmongering (while simultaneously co-opting and ultimately weakening self advocate-driven efforts geared instead toward acceptance and affirmation). Most frustratingly of all, this organization purporting to stand in for the voice of autism does not value autistic opinion or representation, still persisting as it does in not having any autistic membership on its Board of Directors or other important advisory boards. Groups like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and bloggers like Paula Durbin-Westby are actively expressing their dissent and discontent not only through more traditional means such as physical protests and organized boycotts but also through Facebook movements and flash blogs. The extent to which the powers that be, and Autism Speaks itself along with them, might begin to listen to and actually heed these significant autistic voices remains to be seen.

Chris Foss Publishes Book Chapter

Chris Foss, professor of English, has published a chapter entitled “Oscar Wilde and the Importance of Being Romantic” in Wilde Discoveries: Traditions, Histories, Archives.  The book is a collection of essays from the University of Toronto Press (Canada’s foremost university press) edited by Joseph Bristow (one of the most renowned Wilde scholars in the world today).  Foss’s chapter delineates how Wilde’s American lecture “The English Renaissance” establishes that, for Wilde, a properly Romantic aesthetics is antisystematic and disseminative in nature, emphasizing parody and process over self-realization and synthesis.  Casting Wilde as a Romantic Ironist rather than a Romantic Egoist productively illuminates how the insincerity that for many so defines the mature Wilde actually is an extension, rather than a rejection, of the Romanticism he emphatically embraced at the beginning of his career.

Chris Foss Publishes Review

Chris Foss, professor of English, published “Toward a Transcontinental (or, InterEurasian) Canon,” a review of a set of companion texts by Mary Ellis Gibson–her scholarly monograph Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore and her critical anthology Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780-1913–in the July 2013 number of English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920.  Now in its 56th year, ELT is one of the most established venues for scholarly work on literature from the late Victorian, Edwardian, and early Modernist periods.