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Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman Hardcover – March 27, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (March 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300060971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300060973
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Social critic, major playwright, self-proclaimed genius, sexual adventurer, fanatical vegetarian, George Bernard Shaw was a kind of literary Superman in late Victorian England, a precursor of Pound and Eliot who helped blaze the trail for modernism. He was also a repressed homosexual. So argues Sally Peters, a lecturer at Wesleyan University, in this adventurous study of buried feminine and homoerotic themes in Shaw's life and work. Whether one agrees or disagrees with her thesis, Peters has produced a fascinating exploration of the man who lived life in pursuit of "the satisfaction of a passion in us of which we can give no rational account whatever."

From Publishers Weekly

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was haunted by the idea that he was a reincarnation of William Shakespeare. According to Peters's startlingly incisive biographical study, full of fresh insights, Shaw saw himself as in many ways the idealized "superman" of his plays?the heroic artist as moral, powerful and courageous outsider. Yet Shaw, who hated hypocrisy, was, in Peters's estimate, an arch-hypocrite, touted as a feminist while he played women off each other in triangular relationships and used the threat of physical violence to assert control over his mistress, Irish widow Jane Patterson, whom he "pretended to throw out of (a) window" (in the words of Shaw's diary). Peters, a visiting lecturer at Wesleyan, says Shaw's unconsummated marriage to Charlotte Payne-Townshend was "a protective but sterile womb" and traces his misogyny to overidentification with his cold, selfish mother, who dumped Shaw's drunkard father. She illuminates the vegetarian, teetotaling playwright's obsessions, including his devotion to boxing and mountain climbing and his preference for unbleached, knitted wool clothing. Preaching eugenics, seeking spiritual salvation, Shaw projected his romanticized self-image onto the stage in telling parables for humanity. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Nolen on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Peters, Sally. Bernard Shaw: The Accent of the Superman. New Haven: Yale University Press.
If Bernard Shaw were not the second greatest playwright in the English language, this biography would not have such significance; and were it not for Shaw's multidimensional personality, this book would not possess so many fascinating dimensions. Sally Peters acknowledges her debt, and gives us a work without self-conscious authorship. It is a book that invites reading and rereading. Much has been made of Shaw's homosexuality; but Dr. Peters' focus is broader and deeper than that. A story, which often reads like the most engrossing fiction, Bernard Shaw: The Accent of the Superman, is a rewarding resource for any serious student of modern drama.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Nolen on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
If Bernard Shaw were not the second greatest playwright in the English language, this biography would not have such significance; and were it not for Shaw's multidimensional personality, this book would not possess so many fascinating dimensions. Sally Peters acknowledges her debt, and gives us a work without self-conscious authorship. It is a book that invites reading and rereading. Much has been made of Shaw's homosexuality; but Dr. Peters' focus is broader and deeper than that. A story, which often reads like the most engrossing fiction, Bernard Shaw: The Accent of the Superman, is a rewarding resource for any serious student of modern drama.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Was Shaw gay? Dr. Peters builds a convincing argument that he probably was and that he used his vast intellect to erect every possible defense against his homosexual leanings ever coming to sustained expression. I thought I knew Shaw but I will never again look at him again now that I have read this provocative volume. I am giving it only 4 stars, however, because even my interest (and I am a fan of Shaw) could not be sustained for the entire length of this discussion of Shaw's romances/flirtations/avoidances.
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