Giulia Gozzelino: Oscar Wilde’s Wit: The Question of Translation

Abstract of the doctoral thesis of Giulia Gozzelino,  University of Turin.  Tutors: Prof. Valerio Fissore and Prof. Ruth Anne Henderson.  Thesis supervisor: Prof. Melita Cataldi.  Doctorate awarded 21st March 2011.

Oscar Wilde and The Importance of Playing with the English Social Conventions

In his works, Wilde reflects on myths like the proverbial English earnestness and imperturbability, and laughs at the English lack of humour, social manners, and knowledge of the world. “Typical” English social behaviour and language is often associated with wordplay and jokes on English lifestyle. Wilde’s playful language, full of witticisms and aphorisms, reflects his critical attitude towards the English mores, allowing the reader to play an active role in shaping the meaning of what he reads and using the English language in a personal, exuberant and original way.

In Wilde’s works stereotyped English social behaviour is to be analysed in association with wordplay and jokes on English lifestyle, and it is worth noticing that is very difficult to translate these jokes into Italian. As Wilde uses English words in a personal, exuberant and original way, his language is open to many interpretations: Wilde is often able to go beyond stereotypes, allowing the reader to play an active role in shaping the meaning of what s/he reads. This is further evidence of the nearly impossibility of translating humour.

Giulia Gozzelino

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