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Grid Games: Gertrude Stein’s Diagrams and Detectives

From: Modernism/modernity
Volume 15, Number 2, April 2008
pp. 317-341 | 10.1353/mod.2008.0031

Abstract

Gertrude Stein's notebooks reveal her acute awareness of a constitutive feature of late nineteeth- and early twentieth-century urban life, the grid. The grid structure, as a model of visual and material organization, characterizes and is consolidated across legible environments from the visual-textual integration of the printed page to the design of city streets, becoming the definitive paradigm of modern spatio-temporal experience. Stein's notebooks for "Subject-cases: The Background of a Detective Story" demonstrate that Stein, in playing with the grid, not only subjects its basic features to rearrangement through her diagrammatic method but also uncovers its political foundations.