Oscar Wilde and Mae West
This chapter examines the lives and works of Oscar Wilde and Mae West, two figures who benefited enormously from the constraints of moral censorship—until, abruptly, they did not. Oscar Wilde was an artist who officially counts as a Victorian novelist even if he is more frequently classified as a fin-de-siècle playwright. Mae West is the only Hollywood artist explored in this project who served as writer and actor rather than director. Collectively, their works exemplify a wide array of “mediation” strategies: the strategy of scandal, the strategy of sophistication, the strategy of excess, and the strategy of restraint. The fact that they were struck down by the forces of censorship at the very pinnacles of their strategizing careers should not make us disregard what they were able to achieve before their respective downfalls.
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