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
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.