Rachel Cote


Spring 4-29-2016

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Foss, Chris

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Major or Concentration


Department or Program

English, Linguistics, and Communication


Typically considered a proto-feminist, Wilde occasionally lets slip a conservative ideology in his adherence to traditional gender binaries within the confines of the romantic sphere. The internalized binary set Wilde most heavily employs in certain writings relates to Artifice/Reality, where men are associated with Artifice and women with Reality. In specific scenes of The Picture of Dorian Gray, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde explores romantic dynamics under the duress of the genders' diverging preference for elements of deception and artificiality in heteronormative romantic relationships. This scheme inherently reinforces the patriarchy and sexism of the Victorian age by the nature of its engendered roles. When a couple's conflict reaches a detente or conclusion, the men tend to regain the position of control in the relationship, serving to simultaneously restore Victorian ideals of male dominance and female adherence to morality, complicating Wilde's reputation as a proto-feminist.