From Shakespeare’s Globe to the Eiffel Tower, the “Genius of Study Abroad: Revolutionary Imaginations” program took me to many iconic sites on this unforgettable, international, and interdisciplinary journey. I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, walked in Charles Dickens’ footsteps at his London home, and punted on The Isis at Oxford. Every day was a highlight in its own, a new experience coming to light with the each dawn. Yet one in particular that shines brightest out of all just so happens to be one of the earliest highlights on the trip: Oscar Wilde’s statue.

As with my trip, this statue and the life it memorializes started in Dublin, Ireland, where Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 and attended Trinity College. He then went to Oxford, and this trip enabled me to stay at both universities. Throughout his life, he adamantly fought with his pen, creating a defensive and offensive strategy of survival through comedy, seen in his internationally renowned play The Importance of Being Earnest. He was flamboyant, unashamed of who he was, and a famous playwright and author – during his time and ours. After a brutal trial that convicted him of homosexuality, he was imprisoned with hard labor.

Tragically, Oscar Wilde was released from jail a broken man: physically, mentally, and emotionally. He fled to Paris, where he died alone at the age of 46. He is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery, in a tomb of white stone with an angel statue above and the epitaph inscribed on one side and his name on the

other. A glass wall now surrounds the tomb to protect it from the tradition of visitors kissing it with lipstick, although that hasn’t stopped the tradition. His grave was the last place I visited on this study abroad, completing my journey in his life’s path.

I first encountered Oscar Wilde in my junior year of high school. My AP English teacher gave us a book report assignment on any book of our choosing. I chose The Picture of Dorian Gray despite not knowing what it was about, but I recognized the author’s name from somewhere I couldn’t exactly pinpoint. To this day, The Picture of Dorian Gray remains my all-time favorite book. Wilde’s enrapturing writing style and beautiful diction captures the reader’s mind and imagination from the first page onward. His eloquently depicted scene of an afternoon with bees buzzing around is pure poetry. He juxtaposes comedy and horror perfectly while raising philosophical questions of sin, morality, youth vs. aged, physical beauty and the soul’s purity. Its ending leaves one pondering these questions with the knowledge of what happened to Dorian Gray, even though Wilde doesn’t explicitly tell us, but rather strongly implies.

Being a fan of his writing and knowing much of his background, his statue was the sight I was most excited for in Dublin. His statue is unlike traditional statues where the figure is sitting in a chair or reading a book. In fact, when we went to Marrion Square Park, we found Wilde lounging on a large rock. His black shoes are shiny, as though recently polished, and even the fold line on his gray pants are visible. The detail in his statue is extraordinary. He is wearing a green and pink jacket and holding a lily, the flower he was known to always carry with him. His expression is rather perplexing, with a mysterious half-smile and eyes looking to the side. I noticed that if you look at him from one side, he seems like he’s smiling. But from the other, he seems somber. I felt that his expression represents his life and his work, the tension and combination of comedy and tragedy. His statue is in the heart of Dublin and across the street from his home. This statue captures Wilde’s essence, as though he was truly there. Seeing my favorite author celebrated as he was in the city he loved made for a unique and memorable experience that wouldn’t have been possible without this study abroad program.

-Elmira Louie, Summer 2017