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Hedonism motives in Oscar Wilde`s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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Hedonism motives in Oscar Wilde`s novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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1.1. Ekphrasis as a trope in the book. 5

1.2. Ekphrasis as a trope in the film.. 10

1.3. Description of image which is “Alive”. 15


2.1. Gothic Ekphrasis in the novel 18

2.2. Gothic ekphrasis in the film.. 28




In the result of a cultural transfer the literature of the end of XIX and the beginning of XX centuries developed a range of new world outlook and fictional arrangements where the leading role was given to forming reflected realities (e.g. art world), myth making and depiction. The primary canal of a cultural transfer is sanctified by the aesthetic criticism of O. Wilde, W. Pater and J. Ruskun.

In the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde” ekphrasis is presented as the main principle of a literary whole organization. In this novel ekphrasis is performed with a view to build the plot and form an above-reality, which Oscar Wilde calls the “visible world”.

O. Wilde uses ekphrasis in order to build a specific type of a plot, in which the events of the soul life (in particular the acquaintance with art) are presented. Ekphrasis states the moments, which are related to contemplation of aesthetic objects. Artworks are represented in the novel as a source of a specific impact and influence the inner world of characters, forcing them to do various acts and deeds. Consequently, in the Oscar Wilde’s novel ekphrasis provides a function of plot motivation.

According to Wilde ekphrasis is a main primary method for engaging an aesthetic above-reality in a fiction literature. The English writer includes such process in order to demonstrate revival and regeneration of a “visible world”, e.g. to embody the beauty in a verbal form, to create a perfect literary form. From Wilde’s point of view, the art world is a world of material images, delivered by the artist’s imagination. It exists on the same level as an ordinary world but is assessable only for a few people. Ekphrasis becomes a device which allows O. Wilde to create a wonderful, colorful verbal substance and thereby to approve and multiply the beauty in the world.

Thus the given research is devoted to studying the ekphrasis as a stylistic device in the literature and cinematography on the basis of the novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by O. Wilde and its cinematic interpretations.

In current linguistic and philological researches ekphrasis is defined as a verbal description of artworks, as a verbal representation of a visual image. Thematically ekphrasis always directed to other types of art, e.g. painting works, architecture, which in a cognitive aspect are presented as a result of modeling the mental world of a painter or an architect (that is why ekphrasis is often called either “the copy of the second degree” or “representation of representation”). Thus, this device is located at the intersection of different semiotic systems and thereby presents a large interest for semiotics and stylistics.

The issue of ekprasis if of high topicality as there is not much works dealing with investigation of ekphrasis and a very little number of scientific works devoted to cinematographic ekphrasis.

The object of this work is ekphrasis existing in the context of gothic fictional literature.

The subject of this research is the semantic structure and the functioning of gothic ekphrastic texts in English during the period of XIX-XX centuries.

The aim of the research is to show ekphrasis in a gothic context in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.

In order to reach the aim the following problems were discussed in this work:

1) conception and developing of ekphrasis in literature;

2) “The Picture of Dorian Gray” as an ekphrastic text;

3) functioning of ekphrasis in cinematography;

4) analysis of image of the picture which is “alive”;

5) giving examples of ekphrasis usage in the book and their analysis;

6) comparing these examples with their representations in two films – “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945) and “Dorian Gray” (2009).

The research consists of introduction, two chapters, conclusions and references.


In the current research the definition and development of ekphrasis were discussed. It was stated that ekphrasis is the verbal depiction of the visual work of art. Ekphrasis have been changing with the development of literature thus to the end of XIX century ekphrastic text differed significantly from its ancient forms. During the antiquity the following features of ekphrasis can be described:

- visualization,

- narrativity,

- the ability to provide the listener with an emotional impression.

However with its development ekphrasis has lost the above-mentioned features and as a result at the turn of XIX-XX centuries can be specified the following ones:

-“depiction-narration” apposition,

- reduction of size and degree of detailing,

- literary realism and a great number of descriptions.

Analyzing “The Picture of Dorian Gray” it can be concluded that in the book the usage of ekphrasis occurs in a specific way: the main aim of ekphrasis in the novel is depiction of a person who represents an artwork and its psychic life.

In the paragraph 1.2 of Chapter 1 the functioning of cinematographic ekphrasis and its difference from the literary one were investigated. It was stated that the main difference of film from literary ekphrases is that film has at its disposal verbal, visual and auditory means.

In paragraph 1.3 the analyzing of the picture image in the book is given. The features and the functions of the picture, that proves that it is “alive”, are presented. The first function that provides the portrait in the plot is prophetical and the second is the function of intentional exaggeration of reflection of Dorian’s soul.

Chapter 2 is devoted to examples presenting and their analyzing.

Thus in the paragraph 2.1 it was proved that the Oscar Wilde’s work is a gothic novel where the art is perceived through a distorted reality and mystical events. The author uses such ekphrastic devices as:

-avoidance of reality;

-motif of distorting reality (dreams; illusions; hallucinations, etc);

-describing the creation of the artwork in three phases, which are 1) the creation of an idea for an artwork by lord Henry; 2) the creation of painting on this basis by Basil Hallward; 3) the following creation of the picture by Dorian Gray.

Comparing two cinematic interpretations (the film “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, directed in 1945, and “Dorian Gray”, directed in 2009) it was deducted that despite the fact that both films were put up with significant ideological and stylistic changes, all ekphrastic devices of the book were preserved in either one or another way.

All the above-stated conclusions makes possible to refer the novel and its visual interpretations to ekphrastic texts.


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