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Bernard Shaw’s Rationalistic Religion and Saint Joan

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2022, 35(3), pp.53-86
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : November 25, 2022
  • Accepted : December 8, 2022
  • Published : December 31, 2022

Eom Tae-yong 1

1강원대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article is aimed at examining how Shaw’s rationalistic view of religion was formed, and then at confirming that Life Force and Creative Evolution are Shaw’s religious beliefs theoretically embodied and explaining what the meaning of Superman is, all of which are based on Shaw’s literary works. Another purpose is to show how Shaw’s rationalistic view of religion is converged in his play Saint Joan (1923) so that the oxymoron of its concept can be properly understood. While Shaw recognizes religious creeds which can be understood by reasonable mind, he believes that cosmic forces are spiritual and mental realities such as God, vitality, will, spirit and conscience, which cannot be resolved by reason. Therefore, I regard Shaw’s religious thought as a rationalistic view of religion between deism and pantheism. Life Force is not a tangible material but the spiritual force omnipresent in the universe and the driving force of the world, and morality is embedded in the force. Creative Evolution can be defined as the volitional, progressive, and creative manifestation of Life Force. Superman is the reformer of the world and civilization, who is born through the process of trial and error by Life Force. Superman should appear as a “political Providence” and a form of community of race that will replace the current mankind. Shaw embodies in Saint Joan his faith that a kind of amalgam of religion, morality and rationalism can contribute to the progress of humankind. Joan’s rationalistic attitude is clearly revealed not only in her witty refutation against the questions of the rulers but also in her conviction of wearing a soldier’s uniform all the time. In Joan’s rationalistic piety, morality can often be glimpsed, too. Her morality is most intensely expressed on her dying at the stake. Joan can be said to be a hero, genius and saint. However, it is difficult to assert that she is a Superman, on considering Shaw’s various conditions of Superman. Saint Joan can be regarded as the total figuration of Shaw’s realism in the light of its convergence of morality, rationalism, Life Force and Creative Evolution.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.