Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Martha Carpentier, Ph.D

Committee Member

Jonathan V. Farina, Ph.D


Oscar Wilde, Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere's Fan, De Profundis, Drama, Dramatic Conventions, Derrida, Ireland


This thesis examines Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the prison-written letter to his ex-lover, as a work created with the signature Wildean dramatic conventions of composition, style, the writing process, and formal structure of which make up Wilde’s theatrical plays “Lady Windermere’s Fan” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” This shows how De Profundis was written not as an autobiographical work, a love letter, or a portrait of a tormented, imprisoned mind, but as a performance: paradoxical play in the same style as his dramatic repertoire, and desperately intended for publication. First, the Wilde’s dramatic writing process is examined. Then, using Jacques Derrida extensively, the dramatic conventions of absent centers, missing moments, unconfirmed mothers, and unconditional redemption are each examined and analyzed with each of the three texts and put into direct conversation. Ultimately, this thesis proves that De Profundis was a great playwright’s final attempt at writing the play of his life, but because reality does not translate to drama, his final draft is never realized.