Lesbian Textualities in Stein’s Lifting Belly

  • Georgia Johnston


Like Doolittle’s, Gertrude Stein’s exposure to ideas of psychology was more than superficial. As an undergraduate, Stein trained in psychology with William James at Radcliffe.1 Her experiments with Leon Solomon into automatic reactions were important enough to get a rise from B.F. Skinner in his attempts to explain away, through ridicule, her later experimental writings (Brinnin 32). Her experiments in “The Place of Repetition in Memory,” “Fluctuations of the Attention,” and “The Subversion of Colours” (Hoffman) show her training not only in James’s classes but also in the laboratory.2 Cynthia Secor reminds us that “Stein wrote about human nature and the human mind, and her point of view was philosophic, as befitted a student of Santayana and William James and a friend of Alfred North Whitehead” (“Gertrude” 30). With this grounding in philosophy in addition to biology, already her approaches were different from Ellis’s and Freud’s. The famous anecdote rendered by Stein herself, which is frequently used to show William James’s partiality for Stein, reveals her rejection of a “subconscious”:

Gertrude Stein never had subconscious reactions, nor was she a successful subject for automatic writing. One of the students in the psychological seminar of which Gertrude Stein, although an undergraduate was at William James’ particular request a member, was carrying on a series of experiments on suggestions to the subconscious. When he read his paper upon the result of his experiments, he began by explaining that one of the subjects gave absolutely no results and as this much lowered the average and made the conclusion of his experiments false he wished to be allowed to cut this record out. Whose record is it, said James. Miss Stein’s, said the student. Ah, said James, if Miss Stein gave no response I should say that it was as normal not to give a response as to give one and decidedly the result must not be cut out. (Autobiography 79)


Experimental Writing Patriarchal Culture Patriarchal Ideology Lesbian Sexuality Automatic Writing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Georgia Johnston 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgia Johnston

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations