Materials from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library, are included in an exhibition at Drew University.

Oscar Wilde's legacy

University scholars participate in interdisciplinary conference on Oscar Wilde

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11:22 a.m., May 8, 2012--As part of the renewed scholarly and popular interest in the Aesthetic Movement in Britain, two University of Delaware scholars -- Margaret Stetz and Mark Samuels Lasner -- will be attending and participating in the interdisciplinary conference “Who Owns the Legacy of Oscar Wilde?” at Drew University in Madison, N.J., on June 1-2. 

Stetz, the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and professor of humanities, will be giving a paper on 20th-century British author Sewell Stokes, who was co-author of a 1936 play about Wilde that came to Broadway and served as the basis for a 1960 biopic of the Irish author. 

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Samuels Lasner, senior research fellow at the University of Delaware Library, has curated “Oscar Wilde’s Legacy,” an exhibition on view in Drew University’s library through June 2. The rare books, manuscripts and graphics on display are drawn from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, which is on loan to the University of Delaware Library.

Stetz and Samuels Lasner also recently delivered lectures and assisted with an exhibition in California. On March 28, Stetz gave an invited lecture at Mills College in Oakland. The lecture, titled "The Aesthetic Woman," was sponsored by the Mills College Center for the Book and the Mills College Book Art Program. 

The next day, Samuels Lasner spoke at the Book Club of California, a San Francisco bibliophile organization focused on collecting and print culture. His talk on "Aubrey Beardsley and His Publishers" included information about this groundbreaking Victorian artist's influence on women in England and the U.S. who were book illustrators and designers at the turn of the century.

Both lectures were connected to the exhibition "The Angel Leaves the House: Women Bookmakers and the Aesthetic Page" in the Heller Rare Book Room, F. W. Olin Library, Mills College, on view from March 28 through May 11. This exhibition, which features British and American women who were active as artists and writers and whose work exemplified the ideals of the Aesthetic Movement, was curated by professor Kathleen Walkup and by students of the Mills College Book Art Program, with the assistance of Samuels Lasner. Four of the books on display were from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection.

The exhibition and the lectures were all occasioned by the presence in San Francisco of "The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860-1900," a major international exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor that opened Feb. 18 and will continue through June 17. 

“The Cult of Beauty,” previously shown at the Musée D'Orsay in Paris, originated in spring 2011 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It has received an enormous amount of media attention and even occasioned a ten-page photo-spread in the December 2011 issue of Vogue magazine, where images of paintings from the exhibition were placed alongside recreations of them featuring the actress Saoirse Ronan in dresses by modern designers paying homage to Aesthetic style. 

Stetz was a member of the organizing committee responsible for “The Cult of Beauty” and contributed an essay on women and the Aesthetic Movement to the exhibition catalogue (V&A Publishing, 2011). She also gave a lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum in June 2011, while the exhibition was on view there. 

A version of that lecture, now titled "Dressing the Aesthetic Woman," will be published in the volume Reading Dress, edited by Daneen Wardrop and Katherine Joslin, forthcoming later this year from the University Press of New England.

Article by Andrea Muddiman

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