Gertrude Stein, Movement and the Media

Elena Serrajotto

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

928 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the ways in which the rise of new forms of technological and artistic expression like photography and cinema influenced Gertrude Stein’s philosophy and work, allowing her to solve the dilemma of how to write the relation between movement, the essence of the world, and the viewer’s perception of it, without resorting to mimesis. Central to that apparatus and to Stein’s work are two ideas developed in Stein’s essays: firstly the notion of the repetition of an image, of an action, of a sound; and secondly the illusion that what the spectator/reader, is enjoying is really taking place hic et nunc, somewhere in a sort of fourth dimension free of temporal boundaries.
The dissertation argues that the modern media are the fundamental means through which Stein’s methodology develops. Through an analysis of three central generically-specific examples (Tender Buttons; the portraits; and the plays), the dissertation attempts to show how relevant chronophotography and cinema rather than Cubism were to her understanding of movement. I suggest that not only had new media affected Stein, the reverse was also true: by challenging traditional cognitive and narrative methods and by making use of the latest technological inventions available in order to identify, capture and portray the essence of existence, Stein stretched and surpassed the artistic languages available to her to such an extent that some of her later plays had to wait until new technologies were invented, in order to be realized. I conclude by suggesting that it was not until the advent of digital puppetry and the internet with its a-spacial, atemporal and self-referential status that Stein’s continuous present could finally find an expression.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Armstrong, Tim, Supervisor
Award date1 May 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

Cite this