Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Jeffers, Jennifer

Subject Headings

Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900, Importance of being earnest -- Criticism and interpretation, Sex role, Sex differences (Psychology), Women's studies, Oscar Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest heterosexual matrix sexed body new women dandy Ladys World Womans World womens issues gender roles performatives citations drag duplicity individualism tradition inversion bunburying


This essay examines the way in which Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest challenges Victorian conventionalist definition of sexuality in terms of gender. Wilde leads the charge against the structure of the heterosexual matrix byexamining the extent to which gender regulates a person's identity, perception and future. It is imperative to apply alternate analysis on gay/queer theory to Wilde's work to show how the artist was one of the first to introduce audiences to the notion that gender is in actuality a construct. Several aspects of Wilde's literary career are ignored and critics do not recognize nor understand that the artist's works are the culmination of him addressing the crisis involving the conflict between gender and sexuality. Concepts that once explicitly defined male and female gender roles can no longer distinctly separate both binaries. Wilde contends that gender is a performance of socially inscribed ideas of male and female behaviors and actions however, these distinct citations can and will overlap. What is important to note is that Wilde understands and illustrates that when overlapping occurs, opportunities for variance allows those that feel limited by the matrix the chance to define an identity outside of categorization. Wilde defiantly questions the adherence to strict gender roles using parody to explore serious subject matter. As a revolutionary, the artist extends his defiance further by doing what no other artist of the time does and that is to align the new woman and the dandy making both allies of the same cause. Wilde predicts that women would aid in the disintegration of restrictive regulations. By using the emerging strength, power, and influence of the new woman Wilde reveals the importance of allowing men and women equal opportunities within both the public and private spheres of life. Once the heterosexual matrix is disrupted and exposed for the system of control for which it stands individuality is attainable. This thesis demonstrates that even though i