UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Poetics of liveliness : theories of embryological development and Gertrude Stein's "The Making of Americans" Smailbegovic, Ada


This thesis seeks to create a theoretical space in which Gertrude Stein’s conceptualizations of life and liveliness are related to the biological understandings of living organisms. The primary focus is Stein’s early novel The Making of Americans (1911), in which she seeks to compose her characters in the process of living. The biological context for thinking about Stein’s ideas of liveliness is formulated around theories of embryological development, and, in particular, the historical relation between two developmental theories — preformation and epigenesis. The critical analysis follows the way in which Stein’s initial project of classifying every possible kind of men and women to create a typology of personalities in The Making of Americans is complicated by her interest in how personalities change through relations that form between individuals. The tension that arises between Stein’s initial intention to classify different personality types and her realization that relations play a constitutive role in the development of personality parallels the history of conflict and synthesis between preformation and epigenesis.

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