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Follow Me: Religion in SFF - Barbara Stevenson

Pre-orders are now open for Luna's latest Call for Papers! Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Pre-order yours here! Ebook also available on the usual retailers' sites.

Our Award Winning series, welcomes essays from academics, independent researchers, fans and creative writers, appealing to both the casual reader and a more research-oriented one. We consider this cross-disciplinary collaboration a strength, and the beginning of many more journeys.

The book will be released on the 20th of June, so we have plenty of time to introduce you to our contributors.

Today we'll introduce you to Barbara Stevenson - USA - presenting the paper, Aestheticism versus Christianity in The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde.


Sometimes you have the privilege of reading a book when you are young, where the stories endure and remain throughout your life. This article argues that, by balancing aestheticism with Christian beliefs, a dichotomy Wilde struggled with throughout his adult life, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (Wilde, 1888) is such a book.

Aestheticism is defined as a late 19th century European art movement centred on the doctrine that art exists for the sake of its beauty alone and need serve no purpose: political, didactic, moral, religious or otherwise. It can be summed up in the aphorism ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ or, as coined by the French philosopher Victor Cousin, ‘l’art pour l’art’. The Aesthetic Movement, in which Oscar Wilde was a major figure, began around 1868, following on from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, John Everett Milaise and William Holman Hunt, basing their beliefs on the concept of ‘Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth’. For the purpose of this article, aestheticism will be considered in itself to be a spiritual belief, one which Oscar Wilde not only believed in, but set himself up akin to that of being a prophet.

During the Victorian period, while continuing to expound traditional family values, churches were undergoing changes. The Oxford Movement, begun around the 1830s, sought to bring the Anglican church nearer Catholicism, focusing on aesthetics such as art, architecture, and ceremony. In contrast, the ‘lower’ church was keen to address social issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and crime (Jacob, 2021). This Social Gospel movement had a growing influence in the United States from the 1870/80s, coinciding with Wilde’s lecture tour in the country.

About the Author:

Barbara Stevenson is a Scottish author living in Orkney. She is a retired veterinary surgeon and has an Honours degree in German. She has a fascination for folk tales and Gothic horror movies. The fairy tales of Oscar Wilde enchanted her from a young age. She lives in a cottage near the sea, is currently studying for a diploma in herbal healing and fosters kittens for a cat charity on the island, but she is adamant that she is not a witch.

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