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Der kalt erwiderte Blick

Oscar Wilde, die Nebensächlichkeit der Kunst und das Unästhetische der Existenz

Paret, Christoph

Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, Bd. 67 (2022), Iss. 2: S. 44–64

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Paret, Christoph


Oscar Wilde reacts to the predicament of art in the face of an increasingly blasé public. He reverses the roles and sees his art as the reception of those who were formerly the recipients – according to the topos of the ›seeing work of art‹ (Früchtl). To receive Wilde means, first of all, to know oneself received. Wilde looks back colder than he or his art could be looked at. As the one being looked at, the audience is suddenly placed in the position of the work of art. It is confronted with aesthetic expectations that it cannot meet for systematic reasons. To aestheticize existence is to disavow it. Wilde does not educate his audience in this way, however. Instead, he educates them to become an audience. Nothing better should happen to the audience than to remain an audience. The cold look has been interpreted as amoralism. Yet Wilde is no good as an example of how even the morally reprehensible can be aesthetically legitimate. Instead, he demonstrates that the aesthetic is far less permissible than the ethical. Unethical things are already – and only – forbidden aesthetically.