Trivialization and Exquisite Sensationalism: The Importance of Being Earnest
International Journal of Language and Linguistics
Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages: 50-59
Received: Jan. 26, 2020; Accepted: Feb. 17, 2020; Published: Feb. 26, 2020
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Yang Yu, English Department, School of Foreign Languages and Literature, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
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It is commonly recognized that Oscar Wilde’s main contribution to the late-Victorian drama is his dramatic dialogue. The present paper attempts to explore the linguistic features of Wilde’s social comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, which is summed up here as trivialization and exquisite sensationalism. It shows that Wilde’s special skill of trivialization was in fact formed in his journalistic career during the 1880s under the influence of “New Journalism”. “Trivialization” helped Wilde to come close to the theatrical audience in a most comprehensible way. Besides, Wilde was also innovative in using a sort of refined and elegant linguistic articulation. His dramatic dialogue possessed a special exquisiteness which enabled him to get rid of the vulgarity of the journalistic trivialization and to create a dramatic discourse of his own. I use the term “exquisite sensationalism” to reveal this feature in contrast to the “vulgar sensationalism” of the late-Victorian journalism and to show that in the theatre Wilde’s linguistic paradox was geared towards the most indulgent and sophisticated end. Contextually speaking, the spectacular theatre’s commitment to fashion and respectability provided a historical occasion for Wilde to exhibit his exquisiteness. The perfect combination of triviality and exquisiteness in his epigrammatic dialogues not only produced great sensations on stage but also met the need of social elevation of the theatre of the time.
Wilde, Trivialization, Exquisite Sensationalism, Theatre Publicity
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Yang Yu, Trivialization and Exquisite Sensationalism: The Importance of Being Earnest, International Journal of Language and Linguistics. Vol. 8, No. 1, 2020, pp. 50-59. doi: 10.11648/j.ijll.20200801.17
Copyright © 2020 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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