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Kavka, J. (1975). Oscar Wilde's Narcissism. Ann. Psychoanal., 3:397-408.
(1975). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 3:397-408
VII Applied Psychoanalysis
Oscar Wilde's Narcissism
Jerome Kavka, M.D.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.
Oscar Wilde, Epigrams
Most of us have been touched by the literary giant, Oscar Wilde: by his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, by his plays, or, more commonly, by his many witty and often profound epigrams, which have crept into our daily speech.
Psychoanalysts, in their applied analytic work, have often been accused of that state of cynicism which, in Wilde's words, “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” (1890, p. 47). We should remember, however, that Wilde welcomed criticism, engaged in it, and was interested in it as a serious art form (Ellmann, 1968; Weintraub, 1968). With characteristic humor, he said, “To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture” (1894, p. 197). With this warning from the subject himself about the limitations of pathography, I venture on this Wild[e] analysis.
Biographies of Wilde tend to be passionate and partisan, often revolving around accusations or disavowals of his homosexuality. He was a colorful personality, and his life is in many ways as interesting as his literary work. Wilde's obvious characterological pathology, his flamboyant behavioral paradoxes, beg psychological investigation.
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