Abstract

This essay discusses the use of gems and jewels in Wilde's decadent poem The Sphinx. Wilde's notion of the “jeweled style” does not only refer to displaying the Gautierian lexical obscurity; it takes a new dimension by semantically mutating a posse ad esse to the machinery of the poem's gemstones. The discussion proposes that Wilde's strategy accommodates amassment of words as if they were precious stones. Subsequently, by way of the Sphinx's coital encounters, the lapidary textures also clash sexually. Thus, the idea of “l'art pour l'art” escalates in “art at art,” self-consuming and self-consummation. The poem's language propounds a poetics of autonomous and disengaged artificiality with all its paradoxical trappings, since, in its turn, it consists of a conjuration by the poem's speaker. The showcasing of Wilde's self-conscious treatment of gem imagery in The Sphinx involves rhetorical and linguistic analysis as well as intertextual comparisons supported by biographical evidence. This is a confident reappraisal of Wilde's neglected and underrated, yet momentous, poem.

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