Convention Bending

caucus race.jpg

Iowa Focus

In Alice in Wonderland there is a “caucus-race” which involves all concerned running around in a circle until eventually everyone is declared the winner.

With this allusion, Lewis Carroll gently satirizes the futility of political processes—which is topical while the US focuses on the US caucuses, which begin today in Iowa.


By punning this notion of convention bending, and perhaps prompted by Carroll’s circuit of mockery, I return to the altogether less raucous focus of The Aesthetic Movement, which, by the time it reached Iowa, had already selected its candidate: Oscar Wilde—no stranger himself to bending conventions—who lectured four times in the state.

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You could be forgiven for thinking that Iowa’s claim to fame is being the only US state with an abbreviation consisting of two vowels (IA).

But that would be to overlook not only the politically significant caucuses of the wild west, but the historically significant locuses of the westward Wilde, for he lectured in Iowa on his way to California, and three more times there on his way back.

These lectures are documented on my web site as follows:

SIOUX CITY: March 20, 1882

DES MOINES: April 26, 1882

IOWA CITY: April 27, 1882

CEDAR RAPIDS: April 28, 1882

For the record, previously published itineraries of Wilde’s tour show him lecturing in Fremont, Iowa. In fact, Wilde lectured in Fremont, Nebraska. Similarly, Wilde did not lecture in Rock Island, Iowa; Rock Island is in Illinois.

I shall continue to verify Wilde’s tour, which, fittingly like the political process, ends in November. Until then, when it becomes a thing of the past, I shall take the advice of the similarly erstwhile Dodo who announced Alice’s caucus-race in Wonderland by saying: I move that the meeting adjourn for the immediate adoption of more energetic remedies.

Published by

John Cooper

John Cooper is a independent scholar who has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde. He is a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America. For the last 20 years Cooper has specialised in Wilde’s 1882 lecture tour becoming a consultant on Wilde’s American experience to biographers and the wider media. Cooper lectures on Wilde and has conducted new and unique research into Oscar Wilde visits to New York culminating in a guided walking tour. Online he is a popular blogger and the creator of the noncommercial archive 'Oscar Wilde in America’ which incorporates his work on the Sarony photographs, and a detailed documentary verification of Wilde’s American lecture tour. In 2012 Cooper rediscovered Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

5 thoughts on “Convention Bending”

  1. Thanks for reminding me of the circus-like political process. And then there was the political cartoonist Thomas Nast who (taking the lead of the savvy Andrew Jackson who managed to spin John Adams campaign slur of him being a jackass, into the virtues of being a donkey) popularized the political symbols we have today – Nast also being the same guy who turned a more serious Saint Nicolas into a jolly Santa.

    Liked by 1 person

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