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Anna BUDZIAK – Friendship Negated; Friendship Unfulfilled: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India

Cena brutto: 7,00 PLN

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890; 1891) and A Passage to India (1924) diverge greatly: the novels evoke different imaginary worlds – set in Victorian and Edwardian epochs – and, if read from philosophical perspective, take disparate philosophical paths. Wilde presents the philosophy of ‘new Hedonism’ – a modern version of Epicureanism and Cyrenaicism. Forster, in turn, adapts G.E. Moore’s ethics. However, both novels, in their consideration of friendship, seem grounded in Aristotelianism, which we tend to overlook in that, to use Wilde’ words, it has “saturated modern thought” so deeply that it has become almost invisible. In this essay, Aristotle’s ethics provides the primary philosophical context for the consideration of friendship. As regards Wilde, the essay examines three Aristotelian reasons for perfect friendship: equality or similarity, self-knowledge, and virtue. As regards Forster, the essay is focused on virtue (arete), yet from a characteristically Moorean point of view, that is, as intellectual honesty; it also considers friendship as based on the shared pursuit of excellence (techne). However, looking for an explanation why these Aristotelian reasons for people to become perfect friends are negated or proven inadequate, this essay turns to Emmanuel Levinas. It considers inequality between friends as conducive to the mechanism of commodifying the Other, or denying the Other the status of a person, in the way which would correspond to Levinasian process of thematization. While recognizing the fact that in literature, unlike in systematic philosophy, conceptual symmetry is hardly possible, this essay proposes to regard the perversions of friendship in Wilde as a result of thematization effected through the gaze of an aesthete – in the realm of the private. In Forster, on the other hand, discussing the breakdown of friendship, the essay interprets its failure as the aftermath of thematization happening in language, that is, in the public domain. Finally, as the essay implies, Passage to India gestures to the Aristotelian concept of friendship as located in the public and political realm.

Keywords: friendship, thematization, Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, Aristotle, Emmanuel Levinas, G.E. Moore

Research Centre for Nineteenth and Twentieth Century English Literature,
Department of English Studies, University of Wrocław,
ul. Kuźnicza 22, 50-138 Wrocław, Poland
E-mail: budziaka@gmail.com
Phone: +48 713752439

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887