"A very convincing demonstration of Shaw's continuing relevance. . . . Gahan helps us see that Shaw's view of the world was as radically different as he said it was. . . . Shaw is overdue for this sort of comprehensive application of poststructuralist critical theory."--From the foreword by R. F. Dietrich, series editor
Peter Gahan argues that George Bernard Shaw anticipated much of what came to be known as poststructuralism. Gahan's path-breaking book rereads Shaw's writing, dramatic and non-dramatic, against the background of recent critical theory in order to reassess its radical influence in both its own time and ours. Though sometimes dismissed today as merely witty, Shaw should be considered one of the progenitors of contemporary literary studies, Gahan says, in that his work actually allows for ideas of theorists such as Derrida and Lacan.
Gahan first considers Shaw's poststructuralist pioneering in a general, philosophical way. Taking a fresh and thoughtful look at a wealth of readings, he then examines Shaw's criticism and autobiographical writing, in which questions of authorship and subjectivity were crucial. Gahan looks at essays on music, science, and politics and at Shaw's critique of Darwinian theory, in which he calls for a new metaphysics to be included in the discourse of science. In concentrating on his less familiar plays, Gahan shows how Shaw incorporated themes like writing, language, meaning, and authorship into his playwriting, while acknowledging an awareness of the subjectivity of human experience in general and of the writer's experience in particular. For the first time, the play cycle Back to Methuselah--the work Shaw considered his magnum opus--is examined as central to the oeuvre.
This book restores Shaw to his rightful place as a major intellectual figure and as one of the most important authors and dramatists of the early 20th century. It considers the Shaw text as pivotal in the historical break in Western culture between the Victorian and modern world. Its bracing discussion heralds what could be a major shift in the future of Shaw studies.
Peter Gahan, an Irish writer living in Los Angeles, has lectured on film and psychoanalysis and on literature.
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"An extraordinary addition to the literature on Shaw." Choice
"Shaw Shadows breaks new ground in re-reading Shaw's works alongside--and more precisely, in the shadow of--Jacques Lacan (subjectivity), Roland Barthes (textuality), and Jacques Derrida (writing)." English Literature in Translation 1880-1920
"Gahan offers the most nuanced study of Shaw to date. He presents what is most difficult, and yet explains abstruse philosophy with clarity and elegance." Irish Independent