Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

This article will outline the inequalities of the relationship between the Star-Child and his temporary master, known only as the Magician, in order to argue that Wilde’s fairy tale should be read as the formalization of a queer interval that traumatizes the Victorian norm of maturation. This is not to suggest that “Wilde’s Victorian readers [would] seem to have found [any]thing untoward about the fairy tales” (Duffy 328); nothing, at least, that hinted at the “homoromantic dimensions” which were to become so devastatingly central to his libel trial of 1895 (338). John-Charles Duffy has nevertheless shown that a complex interweaving of myth and sexuality is at work in Wilde’s fairy tale. Wilde’s story differs in important ways from other variants of the Proserpine myth, most notably concerning the gender of the protagonist. The gender inversion of the Proserpine figure, as embodied by the Star-Child, is one important way by which we can activate a queer reading of the text. Moreover, Wilde exploits this mythical archetype in order to explore the sexual affect of shame and the way in which it disrupts or delays the narrative of childhood development.