Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman

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Yale University Press, 1996 - Biography & Autobiography - 328 pages
When he died in 1950, Bernard Shaw was a Nobel laureate hailed as the second greatest playwright in the English language. At the same time, his strangely flamboyant personality, so teeming with eccentricities and contradictions, aroused unquenchable curiosity. Despite many investigations into Shaw's life and art, parts of him--parts crucial to understanding both man and artist--have remained veiled in secrecy. In this critical biography, Sally Peters explores Shaw's background and beliefs, interests and obsessions, relations with men and women, prose writings and dramatic art. In deciphering the enigma that was Shaw, she uncovers a convoluted and extravagant inner life studded with erotic secrets.

Peters examines the passions of Shaw's life--everything from vegetarianism and boxing to socialism and feminism--and pieces them together in a new configuration, offering a fresh interpretation of his life and works. Striving unceasingly to ascend, possessed of monumental energy, Shaw was in many ways a dazzling example of his idealized superman. But, says Peters, this superman was also a man haunted by phantoms, a man of gender ambivalences and romantic yearnings, and a man who championed will even while believing that his erotic inclinations were the secret mark of the "born artist." Throughout, he was braced by a resilient comic vision as he transformed his life into enduring art.
 

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Thoroughly researched, well written and convincing bio that makes sense of Shaw's strange relationships with women such as May Morris and Mrs Patric Campbell.

Contents

The Great Stage of London
41
Don Juan in Heaven and Hell
107
Overfed on Honeydew
109
The Heartless Man
110
Seduced and Betrayed
115
Don Juans Revenge
127
Tailoring the New Woman
134
The Philanderer
138
Pluck or Cunning?
188
Son of Shakespeare
199
Ascent of the Naked Skeleton
203
The Accidental Bridegroom
208
A Woman Without Petticoats
219
The Man Who Lived in Fairyland
229
A New Hermes
234
Heartbreak Secrecy and the marvellous boy
239

The Imaginary Lover
145
A Paper Courtship
149
The Secret Life of the Superman
161
Triangulating Desire
163
Scandals and Siegfried
173
The Curious Reversal
179
Finale
257
Appendixes
261
Notes
263
Selected Bibliography
307
Index
317
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About the author (1996)

Sally Peters is visiting lecturer in liberal studies at Wesleyan University. She has written widely on Shaw and on other subjects.

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