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Gertrude Stein's cubist brain maps

  • Author / Creator
    Kippen, Lorelee
  • This dissertation explores the connections that exist between Gertrude Stein’s late nineteenth-century psychological studies at Harvard University, her fin-de-siècle brain research at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, and her early twentieth-century cubist writings. This study is important to neuraesthetic researchers, because it appears that Stein produced a secret series of cubist brain maps from approximately 1912 to 1935, and then published her first explicit brain map in _The Geographical History of America or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind_, in 1936. The cubist brain maps that Stein produced during this period can be conceptualized as evolving, neuraesthetic writing practices that reflect her complex, scientific insights and her varied, artistic associations. One of the primary differences between Stein’s cubist writings and those of her literary peers is that she deploys the cubist painting strategies of Pablo Picasso, for the purpose of portraying the human central nervous system. In addition to exploring the scientific meanings of Stein’s multidimensional, performative and introspective cubist puns, my study examines how Stein uses color in her cubist writings, as a means of anticipating the visual effects of future scientific discoveries and connectivity maps, such as the “Brainbow” system, which uses the fluorescent protein from the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria to label the central nervous systems of genetically modified mice with distinguishable colors. Also, this project examines how Stein uses color words and other simple devices from the English language to illustrate the brain’s cellular structures, neural networks and neuroanatomical features. This study’s primary aim is to explore how Stein’s dissociative writings function within western culture as neuraesthetic modes of masterpiece creation, brain representation and consciousness translation. Through the serial production of cubist brain maps, Stein posed important questions about the modern science of the reading brain. By developing allegorical methods of brain representation, Stein contributes to the western practice of “neuroesthetics” by foregrounding the role that creative writing plays in the production of imaginary, laboratory practices and imaginative, brain imaging technologies.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2009-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3RQ5T
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Comparative Literature
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Hart, Jonathan (Comparative Literature; English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Wesley Cooper (Philosophy)
    • Massimo Verdicchio (Comparative Literature; Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Pamela Meta McCallum (English)
    • Leendert (Leo) Mos (Psychology; Linguistics)