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Book Reviews Polysemous Shaw Peter Gahan. Shaw Shadows: Rereading the Texts of Bernard Shaw. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004. xxiv + 316 pp. $59.95 THE SEVENTH VOLUME in University Press of Florida's the Florida Bernard Shaw series, Shaw Shadows breaks new ground in rereading Shaw's works alongside—more precisely, in the shadow of—Jacques Lacan (subjectivity), Roland Barthes (textuality), and Jacques Derrida (writing). "Where the Shaw text intersects with poststructuralism," explains Peter Gahan, "is in saying that the position of the subject is a variable within a single text or discourse, as it is within a multiplicity of texts or discourses, or within a single dialogue between two subjects." "This study," he writes, "proposes how the Shaw text as a Weltanschauung aligns with the writings of French poststructuralists on such subjects as textuality, reading, writing, and, subjectivity in either its Imaginary or ideological relations to the world." Gahan lucidly states his thesis in a short "Post Scriptum," asking "why the Shaw text always seems to refer reflexively to writing: writing as a process of subjectivity , as a shadow of the world where the world is itself a shadow of writing." The book's two parts—theoretical background ("Reading Shaw") and approaches to the works ("Reading the Plays")—has each of the four chapters in the first part act as "a shadow" of a corresponding chapter in the other part. As Gahan points out, "the Shaw text is resituated here as a problematic of writing, language, and meaning. . . . The writer-critic Shaw and the artist-writer Shaw are almost always writing together, each a shadow of the other, which results in an insistent critique of the times to ensure the Shaw text never exemplifies a writing of either logocentric or ideological subjectivity." Moreover, "Shaw knowingly questions any understanding of subjectivity as a coherent unity, quite unlike that in the writing of his contemporaries. That subjectivity, language , reading, and writing are mutable if interdependent constitutes a major thematic of poststructuralism." Thus Shaw takes his place among thinkers who struggled with problematic systems of knowing and representing the world: Lacan (imagi459 ELT 48 : 4 2005 nary and symbolic language), Barthes (image-repertoire and reading), Derrida (logocentrism and grammatology)—and Shaw: idealism and realism . In the shadow of Barthes, Shaw is "a paper-author, a fictional shadow"; in Lacan's, "Shaw's theater becomes a Symbolic machine where this encounter between the audience-reader and the Lacanian Other... is represented by the Imaginary of the players on the stage"; in Derrida's, there are two interwoven strands within the Shaw text: "deconstruction in the form of an iconoclastic anti-idealism and a form of Platonism in the teleological philosophy of Creative Evolution." The first part of the book examines the insertion of Shaw's individual subjectivity (as fabricated G.B.S. persona) into his critical writing. In The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891/1913) for example, "the critic-philosopher is the Shavian realist who deconstructs the culture's texts and reads the ideological in terms of economic and social relations, the fractured subject who, by navigating his way within the Lacanian Symbolic, creates his own subjectivity." In a most interesting chapter, "Authorial Identity: Promethean Strategies of a Pantomime Ostrich," Gahan shows how Shaw dramatizes "aspects of his own identity" and inscribes his "autobiography" in John Bull's Other Island. Then, while reading Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1919-1920) as a counterpart to Back to Methuselah (1918-1920) and its preface The Infidel Half Century (1921), Gahan demonstrates how Shaw "offered a critique of [Darwinian ] scientific discourse as ideology along with a deconstruction of its metaphysical assumptions and at the same time argued for the necessity for a new metaphysics as a critique of materialism." In short, "Shaw's poetic structuring of his dialectical drama emphasizes both speech and writing—Logos inextricably implicated with différance." The second part of the book opens with a consideration of The Man of Destiny (1895), How He Lied to Her Husband (1904), and Village Wooing (1933), all of which "embrace a reflexive technique of signification in insisting on the problematic of identity and the subject in terms of language and writing." This is done...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 459-462
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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