TABLE OF CONTENTS
DOING SHAW NOW:
A Call to Action
1.) Teaching Shaw
2.) Staging Shaw
4.) Discussing Shaw (General)
D. ISS BLOG
5.) Writing like Shaw or
A. Other Shaw Societies
It’s not as though writing or reading a work on or by Shaw is not “doing Shaw,” but here we mean to put the emphasis on actions at least partly outside of or in addition to that. Although very well-read, Shaw himself was exasperated with the lack of meaningful action outside the world of books, and in his plays he sometimes seemed to favor characters who used books mostly to throw at other people’s heads, so to speak, and in his witticisms he said things like “Those who can do, those who cannot teach” because he saw education being used as a substitute for doing.[i] But he himself admitted to being didactic and so must have thought of the way he taught as a way of “doing” as well. How do we imitate that? How do we “do” Shaw, teach or present Shaw, in a way he would have liked, in a way that leads to responsible, critical, progressive citizen action instead of to escapist bookishness?
Shaw of course sometimes worked and wrote politically, i.e, more directly, for the transformation of society into something more sane, just, and equitable, but most of his life was dedicated to the more indirect literary-dramatic way of presenting his case. Thus paramount among Shaw’s own actions was the producing of his plays, which inevitably led to the instructing of critics on how to understand his plays and in general to offering advice on how to read and talk about all his works. In all the ways one might “do” Shaw—teaching Shaw, acting Shaw, criticizing Shaw, and discussing Shaw—he wished for the connection he was always driving at between literature and life to be clearly understood and acted on. How can we make that more likely to happen?
To begin with, the categories above in the Table of Contents, which are developed more fully below, aim at encouraging and informing the kind of action Shaw wished for. Each of these segments will be under the leadership of an ISS member, who of course would like to see contributions from others and who invites interaction.
1.) TEACHING SHAW top
This segment currently has four parts.
A. First, there are already available a number of teaching editions of Shaw’s plays that provide useful background material along with the text of a play for anyone involved in the learning process. Among books still in print, for instance, Leonard Conolly has published with Broadview Press a teaching edition of Mrs. Warren’s Profession (http://www.broadviewpress.com/home.php?cat=59&sort=title&sort_direction=0& page=3), and among the Methuen New Mermaids are Arms and the Man, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, and Saint Joan (http://www.bloomsburyacademicusa.com/ Methuen_Drama_Catalog_for_web_2011.pdf, p. 13). A more general resource is The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw by Christopher Innes, which is available at http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item1153404/?site_locale=en_US.
B. Secondly, Christopher Wixson has submitted to the Modern Language Association a proposal for a single volume of essays that would fit into the MLA Approaches to Teaching Literature series. He has a growing list of other ISS members who have expressed an interest in contributing to this book, but he would be delighted to hear from you with ideas and contributions, so write to him at Christopher Wixson <email@example.com>.
C. Thirdly, Brad Kent has won a contract from Cambridge University Press to publish a book called Bernard Shaw in Context, which will contain chapters on segments of Shaw’s work that reveal a Shaw who was at all times responding to the events and problems of his day. A 2014 publication date seems likely.
D. Fourthly, an invitation to ISS members to contribute to testimony about successful teaching of Shaw in today’s classrooms has already gone out, and it is expected that eventually we will be able to send you to a page or a blog or a wiki where good ideas, ideas that have worked for someone, can be considered and maybe discussed. We want to fire up students in the classroom, and the best way to do that is to get teachers fired up with good ideas for teaching. Julie Sparks is collecting material for this exercise, so stay tuned for further development, and please write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or contributions to offer.
E.) THE ORION SHAW PROJECT top
A teaching project already underway is one that our colleague Kay Li is working on at York U. in Toronto with many other people, the ISS included. It’s part of what’s called the Sagittarius-ORION Literature Digitizing Projects. The ORION Shaw website has an open access part available anywhere in the world and a restricted access part confined to Canada only. There is a lot of information on Shaw and his milieu in the open access part. The restricted access part is developing along the lines of an interactive website that can be used in Ontario schools whose libraries and classrooms are hooked up to this system. The reason for different levels of access is because Shaw’s works are already in public domain in Canada, and, for copyright reasons, the restricted part of the website will not be accessible to non-Canadians until Shaw’s works go into public domain in the rest of the world in 2020. But it’s a great start and may serve as a model of how to get Shaw more considered and taught in classrooms and thus his lessons better learned. To watch its development, go to http://shaw.yorku.ca to see the current website, but it is being gradually migrated in a revised form to a more powerful server at http://libra.apps01.yorku.ca.
2.) STAGING SHAW top
Thanks to John McInerney, we now have a website/blog called “Staging Shaw Now,” at http://gbshawnow.wordpress.com, which is designed to assist those actively involved in the teaching of acting and the producing of Shaw plays. Already there are articles there from stage artisans explaining ways to approach the producing of Shaw’s plays, and everyone is invited to contribute that sort of thing but also to post illustrations from previous productions that one could use for acting and staging classes. You can post reactions what you already find on this site, but if you wish to add a piece yourself please write to "John McInerney" email@example.com.
Also, there are rumors that Denis Johnston is doing a book of “Shavian Scenes & Monologues” from the past that should provide useful examples.
3.) CRITICIZING THE CRITICS top
Shaw called the first section of his preface to Major Barbara “First Aid to Critics” to suggest that his critics seemed so disabled in their thought processes that they needed medical attention, especially to cure their habitual jumping to conclusions with an injection of facts. Since the mistaken notions about his plays that plagued Shaw in his day are still with us today, we decided to challenge the notion that critics are incapable of learning by encouraging ISS members, under the leadership of Larry Switzky of the U. of Toronto, to respond to reviews that obviously lean too heavily on cliché thinking, hopefully in numbers significant enough to wake the critics up. Larry has begun this project by listing a number of standard objections lazy critics have made to Shaw’s plays over the years, objections which are clearly contradicted by the facts, and he invites you to send your responses to reviews to him as well as to the critics so that we might use them as templates for future criticizing of the critics. If interested in this, please move to http://www.shawsociety.org/First-Aid-to-Critics.htm and/or write to "Larry Switzky" firstname.lastname@example.org.
4.) DISCUSSING SHAW top
All of the above categories involve “discussing” Shaw, in one way or another, but what this segment focuses on first is the opportunity we have to discuss Shaw more spontaneously among ourselves, collectively or one-on-one, by using the Shaw blog called “GBS,” which has been sitting there mostly unused for all too long. It’s at http://gbs.shawsociety.org, and all you have to do to register for this is to click on the message labeled “Invitation to Shaw Talk,” which will take you to a page that gives you some blanks to fill in and an opportunity to respond with a message reply and to be an ongoing participant by finishing the rest of the form with your email address and the rest. Just check “Subscribe to this blog” and “Remember me,” and then hit “Submit.” It’s easy, and what I most like about it is that you can conduct conversations among yourselves without the webmaster needing to be a part of it if he doesn’t want to. So, please, go ahead, sign up.
But in today’s age of social media blogging is just a place to start in “discussing Shaw” online, for there are many opportunities for broadcasting to a wider audience that we might pursue. Jean Reynolds and Amanda Harrison have established ISS accounts on Facebook and Twitter, where postings of ISS events occurs and where Shaw witticisms that have bearing on the week's/day's political happenings are sent out, as well as invitations to events, publicizing of new works about Shaw, linkings to productions, posting of videos, etc. (Jean Reynolds welcomes help, so email her at email@example.com). There’s also Shaviana to be found on YouTube, of course, and for all this sort of thing there are links at the top under “Table of Contents.”
Podcasts in which some of the more eminent Shavians were interviewed, and their interviews archived, might be of use, or the ISS could convene e-events, live chats/discussions, lectures, readings etc. These and other uses of “high tech” would do much to raise Shaw’s visibility. What is needed here is for several tech-savvy young people (older is fine if the tech-savvy is there) to volunteer and form a team. We await your “call,” whether Skyped, tweeted, texted, blogged, or just plain old emailed. “Grail Mail,” as we call letters that actually appear in a post box, would be welcomed as well, although we’d probably be too stunned to open it.
Let’s conclude here by contemplating what Shaw would have “done” with and to today’s media. After you come out of your meditation, “do” something.
Webmaster: RFD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[i] . I found online (http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/ quotes.HTM) a quotation attributed to Shaw without source, "To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching," which I’ll take as an antidote to the more familiar quotation above.