Gertrude Stein and William James: Contacts - Judgements - Influences
Seminar paper from the year 2003 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,3, University of Dusseldorf 'Heinrich Heine', 22 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: William James, psychologist and philosopher, and Gertrude Stein, one of the most influential writers of modernism, shared more than just a teacher and student relationship. According to Gertrude Stein herself, William James was the most significant influence upon her of anyone at Harvard, and one of the most important influences of her whole life. James had an almost legendary ability to inspire students and he awakened Stein's interest in human personality, which remained her dominant and prevailing interest. In the first section of my work, I will give some impressions of James's and Stein's meetings throughout their lives. Over a period of several years James was Stein's teacher and made a profound and lasting impact on her. She participated eagerly in discussions and experiments on the subconscious, a to pic of great interest to James. Connected to the first section about 'Contacts' is the following one on 'Judgments'. Here I will try to outline some of Stein's subjective views upon her teacher and I will show James's understanding of his highly independent student. The remarkable influence that James had on Stein's writing will be the theme of the section about 'Influences'. Stein's and James's ideas seem to correspond significantly. James's theory of the stream of thought shall be especially considered here, for a lot of aspects of it were observed by Stein and modified and embodied into her own style. James in a way established a certain pattern of how consciousness works and enabled Stein to use it and develop it further. This led to an extraordinary style, which also influenced other writers of modernism, for instance Hemingway. My aim is to give some insights into similar thoughts and philosophy of James's and Stein's writing. It is quite impossible to state the complete influence that James had on Stein's writings and this is not the intention of this work. This work shall rather give a justifiable impression of their similar theories and of James's direct influence upon Stein. The signs of their interaction can be seen both in Stein's personal statements and in her distinctive and innovative style, which will be the basis of my argumentation.
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