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The Voice of Rapture

A Symbolist System of Ecstatic Speech in Oscar Wilde's "Salome</I>

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Karl Toepfer

With Wilde's Salome (1893) as an exemplary text, this book examines the conditions under which speech «constructs» ecstatic experience. The author considers Wilde's text as a complex Symbolist «system» of relations between rhetorical devices and attitudes toward language. By identifying the components of the system, the book provides a theoretical model for understanding the power of language to «construct» specific emotional states. The dramatic nature of Wilde's play further indicates that, contrary to popular perception, ecstasy is not «beyond» language but in it. Rapture possesses a «voice», but this voice emanates from a communication system which is actually «outside» of the body which speaks it. Movement toward ecstasy is therefore not a release from system but a supreme manifestation of it.