The poison principle: experiencing William James through Gertrude Stein's repetition in three lives

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University of Alabama Libraries

While previous critics have synthesized William James's stream of consciousness with Gertrude Stein's use of repetition in Three Lives, I argue that the reader's response to repetition enables an awareness of a physical experience of James's assertion that no two identical recurrences may be the same due to an ever moving present. In Chapter 1 and 3, I offer a close reading of Three Lives to illustrate the Poison Principle--the ways in which the character, as well as the reader, experience James's stream of consciousness. Chapter 2 is devoted to the personal relationship between James and Stein, as well as a critical overview of Stein scholarship. Repetition as a device, and the reader's reaction to repetition, is central to my project, and in Chapter 4 I explore the displeasure often associated with reading Stein works. Through examples from Three Lives and Stein's later work How to Write, I differentiate types of repetition. In addition to a discussion of the reader experience, I offer a study in emotional reaction, arguing in favor of James's assertion that our difference of emotion is how we may best recognize the variance in identical recurrences. I close with an emotional re-reading of Three Lives, concluding that the variety of ways in which repetition is employed by Stein must be approached from different angles according to the type of repetition.

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Literature, Philosophy