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Fishman, G.G. (1984). American Imago, XXXVII. 1980: Oscar Wilde. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 125-179.. Psychoanal Q., 53:336.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: American Imago, XXXVII. 1980: Oscar Wilde. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 125-179.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:336

American Imago, XXXVII. 1980: Oscar Wilde. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 125-179.

George G. Fishman

Grinstein begins his scholarly account with an overview of Wilde's life. He then takes the reader through three different and informative speculations about the writer's inner life. The first of these is constructed from the alias Wilde chose after his release from his imprisonment for homosexuality. It was Sebastian Melmoth. Grinstein points out the connections between Sebastian, the third-century martyr who died for promulgating his Christian faith, and Wilde, who purportedly suffered similar martyrdom. However, the name "Melmoth" is even more significant. The reader is informed that this was the name of the central character in a gothic novel, "Melmoth the Wanderer," by Wilde's great-uncle. Melmoth was a seeker of forbidden knowledge who was condemned to eternal apathetic wandering until he could, in Faustian manner, wrest some other person's soul away. Grinstein points out the novel's heavily condensed allusions to a child's narcissistic fury, wish for reprisal, and guilty expectation of punishment for witnessing the primal scene. He suggests that Wilde may have unconsciously identified with this Melmoth. To bolster and expand his argument, he analyzes Wilde's own favorite among his poems, "Charmides." With outstanding scholarship, Grinstein points out the repetitive imagery of phallic, cold, unloving women that may have derived from Wilde's view of his mother and may have contributed to his yearning for love from men. He also convincingly sketches out Wilde's unresolved grief for his beloved sister, Isola, who died when Wilde was thirteen. He allegedly had eroticized hopes of joining her or merging with her, as well as the more usual sibling issues. Grinstein cites as his third piece of evidence a short dream which occurred ten days after Wilde's release from prison. The day residue involved his relationship to two male lovers. Grinstein uses this material to reinforce his hypothesis that the origin of Wilde's narcissistic wound was the unempathic coolness of his mother. Whether or not one agrees with all of the author's conclusions, this is a masterfully composed paper.

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Article Citation

Fishman, G.G. (1984). American Imago, XXXVII. 1980. Psychoanal. Q., 53:336

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