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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 04 | Feb. 22, 2001

Curator Wilde about Oscar

Vilified and jailed for his sexual orientation, author understood loneliness deeply, says scholar

by Bruce Mason staff writer

Sarika Bose vividly recalls the moment when she discovered Oscar Wilde. She was a teenager in a waiting room in her native Calcutta.

"A book caught my attention and I became fascinated with his appearance and his uncompromising aesthetic and determination to overcome the world's banalities through wit and art," she remembers.

A decade later, after earning a PhD from England's University of Birmingham on Wilde's representation of women, the sessional instructor in English is sharing her passion. She is curator of an exhibit, Oscar Wilde -- The Apostle of Beauty, in Special Collections on the eighth floor of the Main Library.

"Remembered as an aesthete, a fop and a dandy, a witty and decadent writer, whose homosexuality had tragic consequences, he declared that he put his talent into his art and his genius into his life," says Bose.

Penniless and in exile in Paris, Wilde died Nov. 30, 1900 at age 46.

Bose and dozens of others at UBC paid homage and marked the centennial by reading his letters and excerpts from his work aloud at Cecil Green Park House. She also organized the conference, Wilde 2000, with English colleague and sessional lecturer Wilhelm Emilsson in December.

"Wilde's active career only spanned about 10 years from 1880, so his lasting cultural dominance and enduring universal appeal is extraordinary," she says.

It's not surprising that Bose would be amused and intrigued by Wilde. Her grandfather was head of English at Calcutta University. A child of graduate students, she grew up on the UBC campus.

Her mother, Mandakranta Bose, is director of India and South Asia Research in the Institute of Asian Research. Her father, Tirthankar Bose, is an English professor at SFU. "I returned to UBC to earn a Bachelor of Arts and master's degree in Renaissance Drama, and when it was time to work on a PhD, I returned to Oscar," she says.

Wilde's philosophy of joy and pleasure continues to resonate with readers and theatre-goers, says Bose.

The exhibition -- including rare items such as a signed first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray -- draws primarily on the vast collection donated to the UBC Library by Norman Colbeck in 1967.

It will be on display until the end of the summer. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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