Recent debates on Conceptual Writing and the viability of a poetic avant-garde demonstrate a collective difficulty in envisioning a modernist discourse that does not frame writing as following, and often struggling to keep up with, the visual arts. Around 1912, however, when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque invented the papiers collées and Gertrude Stein radically reconceptualized poetry out of her prose, modernist writing and art were absolutely contemporary; one could even claim that painting struggled to follow the linguistic innovations of poetry. Focusing on Picasso's Au Bon Marché, Stein's two prose portraits of the same department store, and Tender Buttons, I argue that Stein recognizes, early on, Picasso's semiological interventions on visual representation (foreshadowing later arguments by Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois and others) precisely due to his work's kinship with poetry, and that it is Stein's own, concurrent investigation into semiology and voice that establishes her as the central modernist figure for later poets such as Charles Bernstein, David Antin, Harryette Mullen, and Lyn Hejinian.


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pp. 791-828
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