The Critical Shaw: On Literature
“The general reader, turning over the pages, will learn many things that are not of the slightest importance to him, but which he may, nevertheless, wish to know because other people occasionally write or speak of them.” —Bernard Shaw, 1885
Critical Shaw: Literature is a comprehensive selection of renowned Irish playwright and Nobel Laureate Bernard Shaw’s ideas and opinions on a wide range of literary forms of expression, from Shakespearean drama to ghost stories, from naturalist novels to philosophical essays. Shaw meticulously applied his comprehensive knowledge of the intricacies of writing and publishing (composition, typesetting, style, themes, censorship) and in the process produced an extensive array of critical works spanning more than fifty years. Always with an axe to grind—whether aesthetic, ethical, or otherwise—Shaw tested the boundaries of satire in his critical essays, occasionally locking horns as a result with some of the most prominent authors of his lifetime. Displaying wit and wisdom in equal proportions, some of his reviews remain fresh even though the authors and books they appraised have long since fallen into oblivion. Shaw’s views about literature challenged established conventions of the canon and helped to shape a renewed collective concept of literature.
The Critical Shaw series brings together, in five volumes and from a wide range of sources, selections from Bernard Shaw’s voluminous writings on topics that exercised him for the whole of his professional career: Literature, Music, Politics, Religion, and Theater. The volumes are edited by leading Shaw scholars, and all include an introduction, a chronology of Shaw’s life and works, annotated texts, and a bibliography. The series editor is L.W. Conolly, literary adviser to the Shaw Estate and former president of the International Shaw Society.