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A Metafunctional Analysis of Three Lives by Gertrude Stein

Author ZhuSaiFang
Tutor PanJian
School Hunan University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords Three Lives functional stylistics ideational function interpersonal function textual function
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Three Lives (1909) is one of the important representative works in the early time of the writing by Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), mother of modernist literature, who is a female writer, born in the United States and then residing in French. This book lays the foundation of Gertrude Stein’s stepping away from the literature of the 19th century into the 20th century. It is composed of two stories and one novella, which respectively depict three heroines’daily life, that is, two German immigrant maids (good Anna and Gentle Lena) and one black girl named Melanctha. Critics discuss Three Lives mainly from the standpoints of feminism, racism, classes, psychologism, homosexualism and so on. Besides, the discussion of writing skills about Three Lives emphasizes on the repetition of language in the novella“Melanctha”. Moreover, the existence of these interpretations can also assure readers of the enormous possibilities and large potentials to further apprehend the text.Experiments and innovations of language in Stein’s works form an important part of her literary achievements. Her own inspiration about form as a critical medium to express meanings is clearly revealed in Three Lives. Thus the study of linguistic features on the part of stylistics to gain access to the style of literary works can shed much light on the interpretation of this collection—Three Lives. Functional stylistics represented by M.A.K. Halliday (1925- ), Australian linguist, aims to analyze the formal state of language, studying both how linguistic practice is involved in its relationship with text and how social ideology finds its expression in the textual structure of literary works. This thesis tries to make a systematic analysis of Stein’s Three Lives by applying the three metafunctions of functional stylistics to interpreting the theme of tragic fates and probe into the relationship between its style and theme.The thesis consists of seven chapters. Chapter One gives a brief introduction, which falls into four major aspects: research background, research aim and significance, research methods and the general outline. Chapter Two summarizes a literature review of the researches at home and abroad on Three Lives. Chapter Three employs the theory of functional stylistics as the theoretical basis of the thesis to interpret ideational, interpersonal and textual functions. Chapter Four is conducted from the angle of transitivity system in the ideational function. It makes an analysis of psychological development of three protagonists in their life from the perspectives of the relationship between the masters and maids, and love and friendship. The analysis of the language structure can not only reveal the conflicts between the three protagonists and other characters, but expose how they step into their tragic fates. Chapter Five analyzes the author’s attitude to the main characters and significant events by employing the interpersonal function, where interpersonal comment system is used to explore the three heroines’painful and tortuous psychological development. Modality, another aspect of interpersonal function, is also analyzed to describe the personalities of the main characters and the relationships among them. Chapter Six analyses how micro-repetition and macro-repetition are powerfully used to help to expose the theme of the tragic fates and make the whole text coherent. It is demonstrated from the facet of textual function, with particular reference to the technique of repetition. The micro-repetition and macro-repetition contribute to the organization of the text and help readers to explore the deep meanings of the text. Chapter Seven points out that functional stylistics is an effective tool to explore the theme of the text by analyzing the language structures.The thesis is only a tentative approach to interpreting Three Lives from a functional stylistic perspective. The analysis is expected to further demonstrate that functional stylistics is an effective method in analyzing the theme of literary works. It is a supplement of the research to Stein and broadens the research visions to Stein to analyze Three Lives from the perspective of Functional Stylistics. It can also explore the relationship between the theme and style, and provide objective evidence, making readers understand and appreciate the significance and artistic value of literary works better.

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