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  • 14 Fiction: 1900 to the 1930s
  • Donna M. Campbell

New books on H. L. Mencken, Jack London, Winnifred Eaton, and W. E. B. Du Bois attest to strong interest in this era, as does work on a number of relatively unknown authors. Interest ranges across genres, with several articles focusing on an author's travel writing, journalism, drama, autobiography, or writing for children as well as on his or her fiction. Besides a recurrent focus on issues of race, gender, and class, especially as seen through racial or gender passing, articles this year continue to consider issues of gay identity in the Harlem Renaissance, the critical reputation (or lack thereof) of middlebrow writers, and the culture's engagement with technology.

i Gertrude Stein

Stein's theorizing about language is the focus of several works, including Jennifer Ashton's discussion of Stein's naming and her repudiation of nouns in "'Rose Is a Rose': Gertrude Stein and the Critique of Indeterminacy" (Mo/Mo 9: 581–604). In contrast to those who read names as radically indeterminate, Stein "holds the name to be rigidly determinate," according to Ashton, who shows that Stein's complex system of conceptualizing naming and reference is a means of "revitalizing nouns by making them work like names," something Stein articulates in her lecture "Poetry and Grammar" (1934). "Poetry and Grammar" also informs Marjorie Perloff's analysis of Stein's style in 21st-Century Modernism: the "New" Poetics (Blackwell). Comparing Stein's work to that of T. S. Eliot and Marcel Duchamp, Perlov discusses Stein's use of repeating participles and other words in "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene." In a close-reading of sections from Tender Buttons she notes that Stein's use of technical elements, such as a syntactic use of the copula, repetition of [End Page 269] "colorless connectives," preference for "metonymy and synecdoche," and use of oblique allusion, mark her as differing in technique from but otherwise recalling the early Eliot. In Gertrude Stein and Wallace Stevens: The Performance of Modern Consciousness (Routledge) Sara J. Ford sees the plays rather than the poems as an important lens through which to perceive Stein's use of language, especially since all are ultimately about the act of writing. The same sensibility that readers must bring to her geographic and nonlinear plots and the "flattening of conventional hierarchical entities" permits a reading of Tender Buttons as a rendering of the conflict between writer and language, a "confrontation between Stein and a language that can be determined by consciousness, artistic will, even as consciousness remains necessarily a performance of the language whose absolute authority it attempts to defy."

Discussions of Stein's style predominate in three other essays. In "Encounters with Genius: Gertrude Stein and Alfred North Whitehead," pp. 242–58 in Special Relationships, Kate Fullbrook concludes that Stein included Whitehead along with herself and Picasso as the three geniuses she identified in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas because Whitehead's ideas of the continuous present and of reality as a relational and constantly shifting "spatial-temporal field" influenced and reflected her own ideas. Krzysztof Ziarek in "The Social Figure of Art: Heidegger and Adorno on the Paradoxical Autonomy of Artworks" (Between Ethics and Aesthetics: Crossing the Boundaries, ed. Dorota Glowacka and Stephen Boos [SUNY], pp. 219–37) sees Tender Buttons as exemplifying the tendency of Stein's works to avoid "the grasping power of interpretation." Like Fullbrook, Ziarek interprets Stein's language and her "undoing of definitions" as a series of deliberately unstable mappings of "temporalized relations" among words rather than a set of fixed meanings. Kathy J. Phillips's "Gertrude Stein Comes Out in Historic Drama Trilogy" (Joseph Keene Chadwick: Interventions and Continuities in Irish and Gay Studies, ed. John O'Mealy et al. [Honolulu: College of Languages, Univ. of Hawaii], pp. 132–41) argues that "An Historic Drama in Memory of Winnie Elliot," "Will He Come Back Better. Second Historic Drama. In the Country," and "Third Historic Drama" constitute both Stein's response to the Bacchae and a statement of lesbian sexuality, as evidenced in her surprisingly blunt play on words such as "like" and "come." Leslie Atkins Durham compares the written text with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 269-307
Launched on MUSE
2004-06-24
Open Access
No
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