【Colloquium】Gertrude Stein’s Grammatical Breath: An Experiment with Chance

Date 2020.11.27  | 17:30-19:00
Lecturer Meghan Kuckelman (Assistant Professor, Meio University)
Language English
For graduate students and faculties
Online registration
Program via Zoom. Please register by November 25.
This paper will explore some extended ramifications of Gertrude Stein’s rather scathing rejection of commas, which she explains in “Poetry and Grammar”: “at most the comma is a poor period that it lets you stop and take a breath but if you want to take a breath you ought to know yourself that you want to take a breath.” What has breathing got to do with reading Gertrude Stein? Or with writing it? In order to approach—not answer—this question, I will work off the ideas of two Stein scholars. Allegra Stewart wrote in 1967 that Stein’s concepts of the “human mind” and “being existing” were based in part on the creative response a person makes to chance disruptions to her everyday living. Then, more recently in 2014, Astrid Lorange suggested that scholars of Stein’s work should move beyond hermeneutics and instead find new ways to read Stein and to write about that reading. Blending these two ideas together, with the support of later 20th century conceptions of the reader as a necessary component of a text’s meaning, I will suggest that the reader of Stein can become a sort of chance element for the text, creating those new possibilities out of the old in a way endemic to Modernist thinking. My paper will follow such a chance encounter of my own with Stein, while offering a theoretical justification for its method.