Title page for ETD etd-04202010-165308

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rhodes, Gretchen Stein
Author's Email Address gstein@tigers.lsu.edu, gretchen.rhodes@gmail.com
URN etd-04202010-165308
Title Method and Madness at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bowman, Ruth Laurion Committee Chair
Bowman, Michael Committee Member
Gunn, Joshua Committee Member
Protevi, John Committee Member
Ortner, Frederick Dean's Representative
  • performance studies
  • performative writing
  • experimental criticism
Date of Defense 2010-03-23
Availability unrestricted
The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston, Massachusetts is unique in history and design. Originating as a privately held collection, the Gardner Museum reflects its namesake’s eccentricities and stands in stark contrast to the backdrop of contemporary Boston. Although much has been written about the individual masterpieces held within the Gardner collection and there are numerous biographies of “Mrs. Jack,” as Gardner was sometimes called, little work has been done to investigate the museum in light of contemporary research in museology and the practices of collecting and display. Understanding collecting and curating as modes of knowledge production, this study seeks to discover the types of knowledge produced by and within the Gardner Museum. Because the museum highlights forms of knowledge other than that associated with textual criticism, I focus on the affective and historical material transfers at work in museum practice. As such, this study offers an opportunity to explore the nature of a performance-based method or orientation to scholarship. I both make use of and question “performative writing” as a mode of presentation, so that what emerges is an understanding of a method that, like the Gardner Museum, seeks to discover ways of knowing beyond (but not in lieu of) processes of representation and signification. In a sense then, performance methodology becomes both an object of study and my method. In bringing the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum into relationship with the disciplinary problem of performative writing, I have conceived of my research and writing practices as processes of collecting and curating.
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