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Migrating Minds: Journal of Cultural Cosmopolitanism


English Language & Literature


This article explores TV adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s plays and prose on the Soviet television of the so-called “stagnation” era of the late 1960s-early1980s. Though seemingly ideologically alien to the USSR, Wilde was a widely read and popular young-adult writer for the duration of the Soviet period. I will point to possible reasons for this unlikely popularity and look at two made-for-TV adaptations: The Importance of Being Earnest (1976) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1968). As a queer cosmopolitan author, Wilde translates into, and undermines, a virulently anti-cosmopolitan culture. The adaptations in question use the guise of addressing and educating a young-adult audience to transmute queerness and the art-for-art’s-sake philosophy (both of which I identify with cosmopolitanism) into an ideologically hostile environment that delegitimizes them. Such adaptations both embody and pave the way for the more worldly and individualistic (in the Western sense of the word) art of the 1970, which, in turn, helped along the anti-totalitarian arc of the 1980s.