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Gertrude Stein and the Metaphysical Avant-Garde

Department of Drama, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada
Religions 2020, 11(4), 152;
Received: 16 September 2019 / Revised: 3 March 2020 / Accepted: 12 March 2020 / Published: 25 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Theatrical Drama)
When American metaphysical religion appears onstage, it most often manifests in the subject matter and dramaturgies of experimental theater. In the artistic ferment of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture, theater-makers looked both to alternative dramaturgies and alternative religions to create radical works of political, social, and spiritual transformation. While the ritual experiments of European avant-garde artists like Artaud and Grotowski informed their work, American theater-makers also found inspiration in the dramas of Gertrude Stein, and many of these companies (the Living Theatre and the Wooster Group, most notably) either staged her work or claimed a direct influence (like Richard Foreman). Stein herself, though not a practitioner of metaphysical religion, spent formative years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Radcliffe under the tutelage of William James. Cambridge, at the turn of the twentieth century, was a hotbed of spiritualism, theosophy, alternative healing modalities, and James, in addition to running the psychology lab in which Stein studied, ran a multitude of investigations on extrasensory and paranormal phenomena. This article traces a web of associations connecting Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, and liberal Protestantism to Gertrude Stein and landscape dramaturgy to the midcentury avant-garde, the countercultural religious seeking of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Off-Off-Broadway movement. View Full-Text
Keywords: American avant-garde theater; Gertrude Stein; metaphysical religion American avant-garde theater; Gertrude Stein; metaphysical religion
MDPI and ACS Style

Tanner-Kennedy, D. Gertrude Stein and the Metaphysical Avant-Garde. Religions 2020, 11, 152.

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