Deconstructing Oscar Wilde’s American tour

On Feb. 23, Irish Scholar John Wyse Jackson will give a talk at UMSL titled “Nothing to Declare: Oscar Wilde’s American Lectures.” (Photo via Library of Congress)

Upon arriving for a lecture tour of the United States in 1882 Oscar Wilde reportedly told a customs official, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” While, there is no evidence he actually uttered the aforementioned quote, it certainly fits his style.

Wilde died more than 100 years ago, but his popularity continues to grow and his words continue to garner new fans. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Feb. 23, Irish Scholar John Wyse Jackson will give a talk at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, entitled “Nothing to Declare: Oscar Wilde’s American Lectures.” The talk will take place in 331 Social Sciences & Business Building. It’ll cover Wilde’s life, career and his 1882 American tour. Jackson will discuss what effect Wilde’s presence had on both his audiences and the U.S. press.

Jackson was born in 1953 and grew up in Ireland. After a degree in English Literature from Trinity College, Dublin, he was a bookseller in London for 25 years. While there, he was appointed an Honorary Research Fellow of London University. At the same time, as an independent scholar, his interest in Irish writers and their work gave rise to multiple books. Among them, a selection of lectures and reviews by Oscar Wilde titled “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea,” which was published in 1991.

In 2003, Jackson returned with his family to Ireland. He currently lives in County Wexford, where he has recently set up a large used book store and continues to write and work on various literary ventures, including teaching James Joyce’s “Ulysses” to a class of brave volunteers.

This program is sponsored by the Smurfit-Stone Endowed Professorship in Irish Studies, International Studies and Programs and UMSL.


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