How reading is written : a brief index to Gertrude Stein

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2012
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- This thesis grows out of a set of interlinked questions to do with reading Gertrude Stein: in particular, how to account for the experience of reading a body of work that is largely resistant to conventional and interpretation-based models of literary criticism. What is being read? What is an effective and explanatory way of writing about the reading experience of a Steinian text? And finally, what constitutes a contemporary critical judgment in relation to an experimental poetics such as Stein’s? For the one who reads Stein, the question of what is being read is a complex one. If Stein is not writing representationally, then there is no singular meaning to be interpreted. Stein, however, is not writing non-representational poetry as a project in itself. Thus, to read Stein’s work exclusively as a meditation on the plurality of meaning makes for a limited discussion of her poetics. Stein did not regard writing to be a representational or metaphorical process: she regarded it as an aspect of experience and a form of thinking. This study argues that Stein’s work elicits a reading approach that is productive of knowledge. The thesis seeks to answer the question of how to find a way of writing about the reading of Stein by proposing a series of traverses across selective instances, rather than by engaging interpretative textual methods. These trains of thought are inclusive; they are not necessarily congruent or parallel with each other. It is, rather, a grouping of inter-related concerns. The thesis proposes that a network of understandings can accordingly capture something of the non-normative nature of Stein’s writing as well as the multifarious activities of knowing, unknowing, speaking, eating, resembling, noticing, playing, dancing, walking, forgetting, collecting, teasing, joking, proposing, and writing which, among others, constitute Stein’s oeuvre. Lastly, and in relation to the final question, this thesis attempts a critical response to the reading of Stein. If reading Stein occasions thinking, then the present study is a record of a reader’s account, as well as a theory of reading. The thesis is structurally and conceptually an index to Stein’s poetics. It reads Stein alongside writers and thinkers across discourses of philosophy, science, queer theory, and literary criticism. In particular, it reads with Alfred North Whitehead, William James, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Karen Barad, Daniel Tiffany, and Sianne Ngai. It aims to construct an intellectual episteme for Stein’s work—one that connects with contemporary contexts as well as repositioning Stein in her moment of transnational modernism.
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