Oscar Wilde's two collections of children's literature, The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1891), have often been marginalised in critical accounts as their apparently conservative didacticism appears at odds with the characterisation of Wilde as an amoral aesthete. In this, the first full-length study of Wilde's fairy tales for children, Jarlath Killeen argues that Wilde's stories are neither uniformly conservative nor subversive, but a blend of both. Killeen contends that while they should be read in relation to a literary tradition of fairy tales that emerged in nineteenth century Europe; Irish issues heavily influenced the work. These issues were powerfully shaped by the 'folk Catholicism' Wilde encountered in the west of Ireland. By resituating the fairy tales in a complex nexus of theological, political, social, and national concerns, Killeen restores the tales to their proper place in the Wilde canon.
’Killeen's interpretations should be taken seriously and should be allowed to channel readers in new directions, especially in seeing the religious dimensions of the tales. The readings are cogent and well argued, never seeming forced, never distorting a tale to make it fit a preconceived notion… We cannot ask Wilde what he intended, but the stories are enriched for me after having read Killeen's book. I recommend it highly, especially to those who approach literature from a Christian worldview.’ Christianity and Literature ’This study exposes the deep symbolism in Wilde's tales as they relate to Irish-Catholic culture, which was saturated with symbols that could only emerge through aesthetic forms.’ Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies ’Jarlath Killeen’s new book certainly delivers in terms of comprehension… there can be little doubt about the critical necessity of his project.’ European Legacy
Contents: Preface; Introduction; Part I The Happy Prince and Other Tales: The Happy Prince; The Nightingale and the Rose; The Selfish Giant; The Devoted Friend; The Remarkable Rocket. Part II A House of Pomegranates: The Young King; The Birthday of the Infanta; The Fisherman and His Soul; The Star Child; Bibliography; Index.