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Writing the Lost Generation

Expatriate Autobiography and American Modernism

Craig Monk

Publication Year: 2008

Members of the Lost Generation, American writers and artists who lived in Paris during the 1920s, continue to occupy an important place in our literary history. Rebelling against increased commercialism and the ebb of cosmopolitan society in early twentieth-century America, they rejected the culture of what Ernest Hemingway called a place of “broad lawns and narrow minds.”
      Much of what we know about these iconic literary figures comes from their own published letters and essays, revealing how adroitly they developed their own reputations by controlling the reception of their work. Surprisingly the literary world has paid less attention to their autobiographies.
      In Writing the Lost Generation, Craig Monk unlocks a series of neglected texts while reinvigorating our reading of more familiar ones. Well-known autobiographies by Malcolm Cowley, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein are joined here by works from a variety of lesser-known—but still important—expatriate American writers, including Sylvia Beach, Alfred Kreymborg, Samuel Putnam, and Harold Stearns. By bringing together the self-reflective works of the Lost Generation and probing the ways the writers portrayed themselves, Monk provides an exciting and comprehensive overview of modernist expatriates from the United States.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xi

As a boy in Newfoundland, attending university was a vast ambition for me, and the thought that I might work at one and assist in its running was more than I dared imagine. Had Gordon and Violet Monk, my parents, not supported me without question, I could not have found my way. I have, at the University of Lethbridge, a home...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This project began almost a decade ago at the book fair of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The “Learneds,” as many of us still call it, is the Canadian equivalent of the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association in the United States. I purchased there a copy of the new printing of Robert McAlmon...

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Introduction: The Lost Generation and the Critical Function of Autobiography

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pp. 1-18

“All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation,” Gertrude Stein proclaimed.1 That, at least, was how Ernest Hemingway remembered her words more than thirty years later. Students of twentieth-century literature will attest, however, that the Lost Generation refers today, albeit loosely, to American...

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1. Beyond the Sermonic Tradition

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pp. 19-39

In Educated Lives: The Rise of Modern Autobiography in America (1976), Thomas Cooley outlines the importance of “religious narratives” in the development of American literature. More than one-third of all autobiographies that appeared in the United States before 1850 were remembrances of missionary work, spiritual autobiographies ...

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2. Self-Aggrandizement and Expatriate Reputation

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pp. 41-64

From her autumn 1903 arrival at the rue de Fleurus premises first secured by her brother Leo in his short-lived pursuit of a career as a painter, Gertrude Stein set out to establish herself as an American of prominence in Paris, continuing a tradition of intellectual investigation and bourgeois living abroad, a tradition older than the United...

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3. Searching for a Representative Expatriate

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pp. 65-94

“I want to set down the story of this Lost Generation while its adventures are fresh in my mind,” Malcolm Cowley writes in the prologue to his 1934 “Narrative of Ideas” entitled Exile’s Return. “I want to tell how it earned its name (and tried to live up to it) and then how it ceased to be lost, how, in a sense, it found itself.”1 He is here ...

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4. Place as a Strategy of Attachment

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pp. 95-116

The engagement of modern writers with their urban surroundings is evident in many of their most notable works. Expatriate Americans during the first decades of the twentieth century also had strong reactions to the cities whose growth embodied the spirit of the industrialized world. J. Gerald Kennedy observes that “displaced...

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5. Patterns of Women’s Stories

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pp. 117-138

“Paris has often been imagined as a mysterious, seductive woman, both mistress and muse to generations of male poets,” Andrea Weiss argues. “Women drawn to the allure of Paris were also responding to the female qualities of a city which allowed them to express themselves in less conventional, more substantive ways than simply ...

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6. Revision and Textual Authority

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pp. 139-160

On April 8, 1933, Ernest Hemingway wrote to Janet Flanner, “By jeesus will write my own memoirs sometime when I can’t write anything else. And they will be funny and accurate and not out to prove a bloody thing.”1 While this pledge should remind readers that some modern writers saw life narrative as a second-rate undertaking ...

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7. The Afterlife of Expatriate American Autobiography

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pp. 161-182

“The American twenties in Paris . . . was the decade when the idea of the American in Paris got fixed in the American imagination,” Adam Gopnik maintains. “But, as with vineyards, it is stress that makes for flavor, and there is something disappointingly flabby and crowded about the endless number of memoirs of that time that ...


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pp. 183-197


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pp. 199-207


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pp. 209-213

E-ISBN-13: 9781587297434
E-ISBN-10: 1587297434
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587296895
Print-ISBN-10: 1587296896

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: cloth

OCLC Number: 297116500
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Writing the Lost Generation

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Subject Headings

  • Autobiography.
  • Modernism (Literature).
  • Authors, American -- Biography -- History and criticism.
  • American prose literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism
  • Authors, American -- France -- Paris -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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