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  • Introduction:The Evolution of Shavian Consciousness
  • MaryAnn K. Crawford (bio) and Michel W. Pharand (bio)

Evolution and human consciousness: these two topics weave throughout the essays in this edition of SHAW. Their presence pays tribute to the energy and ideas generated by Shavian gatherings that took place in 2006. First, to commemorate Shaw's 150th birthday, Brown University hosted an International Shaw Society Conference entitled "Sesquicentennial Shaw" (8-11 June); the conference's umbrella topic was Shaw's contribution to the evolution of human consciousness. Thirteen of the fourteen essays in this issue of SHAWwere selected from among the forty-six papers presented at Brown; another was delivered at the Shaw Symposium at Niagara-on-the-Lake (18-20 August). Clearly there is no dearth of Shaw scholarship or of new Shavian voices, some of them appearing in these pages for the first time.

Shaw's contribution to the evolution of human consciousness—let's call it Shavian consciousness—took many forms and, in fact, still does, as there is also no dearth of unexplored original Shaw material: countless essays, reviews, articles, and letters remain unpublished or long forgotten since their first appearance in print. Fortunately, some gems occasionally resurface, and we include two in this volume. In the opening spot is a 1939 Shaw essay from Twice a Year (New York) that had appeared in England the previous year as the foreword to New Architecture: An Exhibition of the Elements of Modern Architecture. We publish it here so that readers may watch as the octogenarian Shaw turns a critical eye upward to the massive pillars of ancient Baalbek and rails against the "impressive architecture" of his own day. Thank you to Shaw collector Sidney P. Albert for bringing the photocopy to Michel Pharand's attention.

Shaw's essay is followed by another forgotten work, this one a mini-drama. Stanley Weintraub sets the historical stage for The King, the Constitution [End Page 1] and the Lady, a one-act playlet that appeared only once in print—in the London Evening Standard on 5 December 1936. Through the drama of the playlet, Shaw indirectly advises King Edward VIII, whose liaison with his American paramour, Wallis Simpson, had reached a crisis point. Five days later, the king submitted his abdication. The following day it was endorsed by Parliament, after which the future Duke of Windsor's live radio broadcast famously declared to the nation his inability "to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." Weintraub points out the echoes of the king's constitutional quagmire in Shaw's futuristic The Apple Cart (1929), revived (thanks to the abdication crisis) in summer 1937 at the Malvern Festival.

From Shaw on architecture and politics, we turn to Shavian biographer A. M. Gibbs (Bernard Shaw: A Life [2005], reviewed in SHAW 26) as he explores how for Shaw, that "celebrator of life's unpredictability," the idea of change played a paramount role in his life and work. Meliorism pervades Shavian consciousness: in the idea of God as an evolving phenomenon (in the account of Creative Evolution in The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God); in Shaw's exposition of Einstein's thought (in his 28 October 1930 speech in Einstein's honor); and in plays with "unexpected eventualities, transformations of character, and surprising developments of theme," such as You Never Can Tell, The Devil's Disciple, Arms and the Man , Widowers' Houses, and Pygmalion. Gibbs also outlines how Edmund Burke's political and social philosophy "epitomizes what Shaw wanted to destroy" and finds echoes of Burkean principles in the writings of Shaw's opponents G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

Next, connecting human consciousness and language, comes an examination by Martin Meisel of Shaw's "language tailored to theatrical performance" (echoing of words, repeated phrases, speeches linked through catchword repetition), a quality that Shaw labeled, in 1923, "audible intelligibility." Like Gibbs, Meisel points out Shaw's "evolutionary optimism," "meliorism and implacable vitality," and "the possibility of change." Yet, asMeisel shows, Shaw has much in common with the "stoically pessimistic" Tom Stoppard, who claims that his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1480
Print ISSN
0741-5842
Pages
pp. 1-5
Launched on MUSE
2007-10-22
Open Access
No
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