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ELT 45 : 2 2002 might have served Bashford better than his tool-box of rhetorical distinctions . As Bashford unwraps his thesis leaf by leaf, I am reminded that when Lovejoy once was being confirmed for the Board of Regents of the state university, a legislator who had heard he was an atheist asked him: "Dr. Lovejoy, do you believe in God?" To which he replied, "There are thirtyfive historically distinct definitions of'God,' which one do you mean? ..." I asked Lovejoy—years later—what he would have said if he'd been given, for example, Anselm's definition. "I would have said, 'Not that one. Try another.'" But what, I wanted to know, would he have said if the legislator (preposterous though it may be) had gone through all thirty-five definitions? In an instant, with that half-smile, eyes squinting, and the smoke from his king-size cigarette in its ivory holder making a tight little corkscrew in the air, Lovejoy came back at me, "I would have asked him to propose a thirty-sixth!" Wilde also knew how to hide and to acknowledge—and to veil both actions in a moment of wit. Can one unravel Wildean paradox, improvisation , or parody without essential loss? At one time or another, most of us indeed do try to force Wilde out into logic's light—to tame his wildness —so Bashford's study should be welcomed as one of our most serious current efforts to clarify Wilde's critical stance. Gerald Monsman ______________ University of Arizona Postmodern Shaw Jean Reynolds. Pygmalion's Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999. xiii + 153 pp. $49.95 THIS INAUGURAL VOLUME in the Florida Bernard Shaw series, under the editorship of R. F. Dietrich, clearly sets the tone for the new project, the aim of which is to support traditional approaches and to encourage scholars with new critical paradigms to engage Shaw's work. Indeed , in his brief foreword, Professor Dietrich identifies this as a fitting book to launch the series since it illustrates just how Shaw seems to have anticipated postmodern criticism and, at the same time, provided a critique of its limitations. Through Reynolds's probe of Shaw's invention of "new speech" as a linguistic model in Pygmalion, Dietrich continues, she looks at Shaw exploring ideas about language, creativity, and psychology that "later became associated with Jacques Derrida and other postmodernist theorists." Reynolds herself treats Pygmalion (produced, 232 BOOK REVIEWS 1914, while others were busy inventing modernism) as a postmodern play, asking how contemporary readers are to "use" Eliza Doolittle's story. This, then, is Reynolds's project, one which she carries out with fine perceptions, with close readings of the playscript, with interesting speculations, and with insights that reverberate in other of Shaw's works, including those not meant for the stage. The Inspector in Tom Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth has this delicious line: "Who's to say what was meant? Words can be your friends or your enemies, depending on who's throwing the book. So watch your language!" This phrase came repeatedly to mind as I read Reynolds's linguistic examination, "Introduction: A New Speech," in which she makes the case that Shaw was set upon inventing a "quite different human being" and a "new speech," that Pygmalion "spotlights the pitfalls and triumphs that await anyone who creates a new identity through language" and that a real case in point is Shaw himself who "made the decision to reinvent himself—a shy Irishman with little money and formal education—as a brilliant and entertaining critic and reformer." Shaw, clearly, as Stoppard has it, was throwing the book. To follow Reynolds's argument is to tread warily and purposefully about the Shavian landscape, exploring four far-ranging issues that seem to her central to Shaw's project and speech. The first she calls the paradoxical nature of Shaw's "new speech" which involves a sustained look at his complex philosophy of language in The Quintessence of Ibsenism (1891) and in his speech "Acting, by One Who Does Not Believe In It" (1889). A second dominant issue is the creation of "G.B...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 232-236
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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