In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Michel W. Pharand

This issue of the SHAW Journal opens with a conversation between Sally Peters and the indomitable critic and playwright Eric Bentley, who has surpassed GBS himself in Shavian longevity, having turned one hundred in September 2016! The interview took place when Bentley was a spritely eighty-seven, when he offered his outspoken views on the man he’d “been married to … so to speak, for seventy years.” On Major Barbara: “a play we all stumble over.” On the epilogue to Saint Joan: “the main point … never gets across.” On modern “updates” of Shaw’s plays: “Foolish. And insulting to our audiences.” On Shaw: “an actor who would have liked to have been the character acted and not the actor acting.” There are many more gems where these came from.

In “Architectural Space and the Failures of ‘Complete’ Houses in Heartbreak House,” Allan Johnson argues that Shaw’s play “complicates the familiar modernist narrative of returning home for redemption by placing its central action in a bizarre, nautical-themed home that parodies key understandings of the design and uses of architectural space that arose following World War I.” Johnson examines closely the “troubled and troubling relationship” of Shaw’s characters to the space around them, a relationship symbolic “of their own understanding of social organization and its radical reestimation” in the early years of the twentieth century.

Next, Derek McGovern introduces us to what he calls “a bittersweet adaptation” of Candida: the 2009 musical by Michael Halberstam titled A Minister’s Wife. That this is “a more somber work” than Shaw’s play is due to certain decisions by the book writer—such as the excision of the [End Page 191] comic character of Burgess—and to a “fragmented” approach by both the composer and the lyricist. Scrutiny by McGovern of the musical’s unpublished score and book allows us to gauge “the impact of its compression of Candida’s dialogue.”

In “Shaw’s Pygmalion: The Play’s the Thing,” Jean Reynolds—unwittingly echoing Eric Bentley—examines Shaw’s perennial concern with role-playing. In his 1899 speech, “Acting, by One Who Does Not Believe in It,” Shaw asserted that acting can in fact lead to what he calls “metaphysical self-realization.” Reynolds, using a metadramatic approach, makes “connections between Shaw’s career as a dramatist and the mixed outcomes of Henry and Eliza’s journeys into ‘metaphysical self-realization.’”

David Radavich’s “Eastern Paradox in Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara” teases out “complex patterns of interpenetrating oppositions that define and wrestle against each other in a manner characteristic of Taoist philosophy.” Radavich finds that, like Brecht’s The Good Person of Sezuan, Major Barbara “enacts multilayered binaries of male and female, war and peace, profit and generosity, religion and secularism.” Indeed, he concludes that Shaw’s own mode of thinking “features a dialectic of opposing ideas that feed into and derive sustenance from each other in a Taoist fashion.”

The penultimate essay in this volume is by Kay Li, who outlines some of the many innovations of the now-familiar SAGITTARIUS–ORION–Shaw Literature Digitizing Pilot Project. According to Li, “there is an urgent need less to amass textual and contextual materials or to apply complicated humanities computing, than to find out realistically how to teach Shaw in ways that are contemporary, inclusive, and equitable.” Li goes on to show how this is being done with Pygmalion and Arms and the Man.

The essay section of this volume closes, appropriately, with “Ashes to Ashes: The Politics of Shaw’s Death.” Although Shaw’s and Charlotte’s ashes were scattered in the garden at Ayot St Lawrence (in accord with their wishes), L. W. Conolly has discovered that behind the scenes, “prompted by Nancy Astor and aided by some wiggle room in Shaw’s will,” there was much “consternation in the highest political and religious offices in Great Britain about the disposition of the Shaws’ ashes.” Thanks to previously unexamined documents, we now know that Shaw “came within a whisker” of being buried in—believe it or not—Westminster Abbey or Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral!

That Shaw scholarship continues to flourish is evidenced by reviews...


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pp. 191-193
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