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TSC Tschofen Lecture_ _This Makes Sand_ - Gertrude Stein's Counter-Philosophy of Language

Toronto Semiotic Circle Lecture Series

TSC Tschofen Lecture: "This Makes Sand" - Gertrude Stein's Counter-Philosophy of Language and Sense

Dr. Monique Tschofen

Ryerson University

My presentation examines the modernist writer Gertrude Stein’s bewildering, bewitching short book of prose poetry titled Tender Buttons (1914). The work remains maddeningly slippery for readers, even a whole century later. The poem uses a strange syntax, descriptions that do not match up with what she says she is describing, staccato repetitions, and an almost obsessive refusal of literature’s customary offering of beautiful images and inspirational thoughts. And yet contemporary critics have called this one of the most decisively important works of literature in the early 20th century.

What is Stein trying to achieve, and what can we learn from her work today? This seminar will parse her themes and radical use of language to show how she “tenders” a sustained, multi-dimensional critique of the methods we have developed to make sense of making sense. Her aim in revisiting the issue of meaning was to ultimately restore meaningfulness in a world in crisis. On the eve of our own world crises, Stein thus has much to teach us about the hazards of grasping for certainty, including semiotics’ own quest for a “science of signs.” What she wonders about and models instead is at once radical and familiar, disruptive and reassuring.

Participants are urged to have a quick look at Tender Buttons. There are many free online editions. 

This lecture was sponsored by the Ryerson University Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and by the Ryerson University Arts Research Collaboratory.

A Bit About Me

Date & Time

Wed, 14 December 2016

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EST


Ryerson University

341 Yonge St, POD469

Toronto, ON M5B 2K3

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