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BOOK REVIEWS this play, and the notes contain much supplementary material of interest . The illustrations are interesting though their quality is impaired by not being mounted on separate glossy pages. For some years I have admired A. M. Gibbs's The Art and Mind of Bernard Shaw (1983). It is by all odds the best short book on Shaw that also attempts to be comprehensive; it is at once concise and intense with the result that virtually every paragraph contains several memorable observations and judgments. With this new book Gibbs adds to his reputation as a knowledgeable Shavian and a graceful writer. 'Heartbreak House': Preludes to Apocalypse makes more accessible a great but superficially strange and forbidding work of art. Gibbs's book is the one to consult if the reader or playgoer wishes a full, readable, and challenging introduction to a landmark modern drama. The book represents more than an introduction, however: it is a definitive statement concerning the current status of Heartbreak House in the annals of literary and dramatic history. Frederick P. W. McDowell --------------------- University of Iowa Shaw & the Socialist Theatre Tracy C. Davis. George Bernard Shaw and the Socmlist Theatre. Westport: Greenwood Press; Praeger, 1994. xxii + 184 pp. Cloth $59.95 Paper $16.95 GEORGE BERNARD SHAW and the Socialist Theatre, by Tracy C. Davis, is a part of the Greenwood Press Lives of the Theatre series, which features figures who have contributed significantly to theatrical development, with an emphasis on the cultural and political context in which they worked. As Davis points out in her introduction, the book is not an authorized biography of Shaw (for which the reader is referred to Michael Holroyd's biography); nor is it "a definitive reading of Shaw." It is an attempt to place Shaw in his political milieu and to assess his place according to late twentieth-century feminist and postcolonial critiques. Its aim is introductory, with an undergraduate readership in mind. In accord with this purpose, the book provides a survey of the late nineteenth-century political and artistic scene and a number of intriguing and provocative ideas about Shaw's relationship to that scene. The thesis of Davis's book is that, in spite of Shaw's avowed didactic purpose in writing plays, Shaw was unsuccessful as a socialist dramatist because 539 ELT 38:4 1995 his plays, finally, did not lead to a changed social consciousness nor to social action. The plan is chronological, with chapters on "Shaw Before Playwriting ," "Apprenticeship as a Playwright," "Shaw's Theatrical Heydey," and, finally, "Responses to the Twentieth Century." (The last chapter includes a brief analysis of selected Shaw works from a late twentiethcentury postmodern perspective.) The book concludes with a Chronology of Shaw's Life and Writings in which selected world events (from 1837 to 1950) are coordinated with events in Shaw's life and with dates of his plays and his fiction. There is also a helpful bibliographical essay pointing toward major Shaw scholarship and ancillary topics relevant to each chapter. Davis is at best ambivalent about the value of Shaw's work and at times hostile. For example, the introduction refers to "the facets of him one personally finds most odious and overbearing" (xviii). Though we are not told exactly what these "odious and overbearing" characteristics of Shaw are, a reference shortly afterwards to his "onslaught of words" or later quotations of Beatrice Webb's complaints about Shaw's drama as "an intellectual and moral morass" provide us with clues. One of the weaknesses of the book is Davis's tendency to draw conclusions that may seem self-evident to Davis and to some readers but—especially given the undergraduate readership toward which the book is directed—require amplification and further support. For example , the opening chapter includes an account of leisure activities in the late nineteenth century, which, according to Davis, "were ideologically responsible for regulating working-class behaviour and presenting material that entertained while asserting the value of the status quo" (27). It is a thought-provoking and interesting conclusion. But in her discussion of leisure activities Davis does not clearly differentiate between the artists who challenged the status quo (Zola, Ibsen, the early Shaw...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 539-542
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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