Salome's Veils: Language, Interpretation and Translation

Open Access
Oswald, Meryn Noel
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
  • Salome
  • Oscar
  • Wilde
  • translation
  • interpretation
  • veils
  • language
  • English
  • French
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Symbolism
  • Modernism
  • Postmodernism
  • Bible
  • Dance
  • Aesthetics
  • Decadence
“Salomé’s Veils: Language, Interpretation and Translation” examines the relationship of language, translation, and interpretation in Oscar Wilde’s one-act play Salomé. Wilde’s play is both an interpretation and a translation of a large body of source texts, including but not limited to the Bible, cultural-historical interpretations of the Salomé figure, poetry, and painting. As a translation, Wilde’s text focuses on language and medium to articulate the way that his sources mean, rather than meaning itself. Rather than concentrating on signification, Wilde considers form, language and medium. Wilde’s interest in form over content is manifest in his attention to the part over the whole, and illustrates his broader connection to the Decadent movement. Havelock Ellis defines literary Decadence as “an anarchistic style in which everything was sacrificed to the development of the individual parts.” Such an interest in the part over the whole is characteristic of many Decadent texts, in which the primacy of the individual word supersedes the sentence. Further, Wilde’s decision to write the play in French enables him to create an idiolect and to focus on language as language. In so doing, Wilde invests in the process of using language as an aesthetic end in itself. Wilde’s engagement with language as language induces his audience to interpret and translate his work, focusing on the individual word. Through this process, his audience experiences language as an aesthetic end as well. Ultimately, Wilde’s investment in the process over the product, and the part over the whole enables his text to produce many, autonomous critical readings of the play.