Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw

By Lagretta Tallent Lenker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: The Ages of Shakespeare and Shaw

HISTORICAL CONTEXTS—FINS DE SIÈCLE

The phrase fin de siècle denotes distinct social, cultural, and intellectual phenomena present around the end of a century. While the term has become analogous with the end of the nineteenth century, Elaine Showalter and others appropriate the term to apply to the ends of other centuries as well. Feelings of angst, as well as apprehensions of an impending apocalypse, dominated the prominent philosophies and artistic endeavors of these times. In this wider context, the term fin de siècle comes to represent collective social anxieties about health, religion, culture, and the family, in short, about the prevailing way of life. Showalter queries, “Could there be cycles in time like cycles in the weather, like hurricanes and earthquakes, which are chaotic but not random?” (2). Frank Kermode answers, “we project our existential anxieties onto history; there is a real correlation between the ends of centuries and the peculiarity of our imagination, that it chooses always to be at the end of an era” (97). Showalter builds on Kermode’s theories: “The crises of the fin de siècle, then, are more intensely experienced, more emotionally fraught, more weighted with symbolic and historical meaning because we invest them with the metaphors of death and rebirth” (2). Yet amid the anxieties and insecurities, Showalter recognizes signs of humankind’s endurance and hope for the future, of “the embryonic stirrings of a new order” (18). This apparently optimistic phrase recalls that of another commentator at a crossroad in time. Matthew Arnold’s famous depiction of one era’s dying while the new order is helpless to

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Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare and Shaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: The Ages of Shakespeare and Shaw 15
  • Chapter 2 - Daughter as Passive Verb 49
  • Chapter 3 - Daughter as Active Verb 71
  • Chapter 4 - In Care of Thee 121
  • Chapter 5 - Never an Innocent Relationship 141
  • Bibliography 181
  • Index 193
  • About the Author 203
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