Oscar Wilde in 1882 (taken in NY by Napoleon Sarony)

How It’s New York:  The symposium about the legacy of Oscar Wilde will take place at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey in June– an easy commute by train from the city.   Incidentally, Oscar visited NJ in his 1882 American tour, and spent time in the “Irish Riviera,” Spring Lake.  He also visited the Catskills.
How It’s Irish:  Oscar Wilde was Irish, and how Irish he was has been a contentious topic over the years.

I’ve been a Wildean since I first saw the character on the wonderful Masterpiece Theatre series  Lillie, played by Peter Egan.  It was then that I realized that he was the author of my favorite ever ghost story, “The Canterville Ghost,” which I had
adored so much at age 11 that I used to paraphrase it and tell it to other girls at summer camp.  Adding to the charm of the story was that I’d found it in an anthology which disappeared from time to time from the Millburn Public Library shelves– tmany books were put in storage due to space (this was when the library was still in the old synagogue building, not where it is now).  So the story for me was a bit like Brigadoon, who knew when I might find it again?  After finding Lillie and making the connection, I read everything available (a lot less; he wasn’t on mugs and tote bags and t-shirts back then).  I’m firmly convinced it was my essay on Oscar (we’re on a first name basis) that got me into Stanford.

Got something to say about him?  All you have to do by the 31st is the abstract; you’ve got months to do the paper…

Call for Papers: Who Owns the Legacy of Oscar Wilde? An Interdisciplinary Conference

History and Culture Program, Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey
1-2 June 2012

Who was Oscar Wilde? An aesthete who subverted philistine values, or pandered to bourgeois taste? The first modern dramatist, or the last of the Victorian playwrights? An Irish nationalist, or an Anglophile? A socialist, or a shrewd literary entrepreneur? An immoralist, or a new kind of moralist? A philosopher, or a court jester? A misogynist, or a feminist? A pioneer of “queer theory,” or someone who never quite came to terms with his sexuality?

This conference will present and debate diverse perspectives on Wilde and his work, from many disciplines and all points on the ideological compass.

Abstracts of panels or individual papers (one page/250 words maximum per paper) should be submitted by 31 January 2012 to the Program Committee Chair, Prof. Edward Baring ( We welcome submissions from graduate students as well as faculty.

Direct all other queries to the Conference Co-chairs, Prof. Christine Kinealy ( and Prof. Jonathan Rose (

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.


  1. Avatar
    Unknown / January 25, 2012 at 2:39 am

    How can we have mnths to work on it if the posting date is 6 days away. Just wondering. Kim

  2. Avatar
    Gwen Orel / January 25, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Only the 250-word abstract is due on the 31st– so it means coming up with what you want to write about and having a strong thesis, but you don’t need the finished paper. Pretty standard stuff in academia, though I agree I should have posted sooner!

  3. Avatar
    John Cooper / November 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    For a review of the conference by NY Irish Arts blogger John Cooper see here:

Comments are closed.