Expatriate Writers In Paris During The 1920s

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Expatriate Writers in Paris during The 1920s

The Development of Abstraction in the Writings of Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein represents a special case: an important writer whom few read. If she is remembered at all today, it is likely to be for her portrait by Picasso; the term "the Lost Generation," which she coined; the line "rose is a rose is a rose is a rose"; a Paris address, 27 rue de Fleurus; or her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. Of her portraits, short stories, novels, poems, operas, plays, essays, art criticism, lectures, autobiographies, and diaries, only two works have endured: Three Lives and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Ernest, pp. 69). As Richard Kostelanetz has argued, however, "if claims for Stein are based upon Three Lives and Alice Toklas, she is a minor modernist; but if our sense of her reputation is founded upon Geography and Plays, Making of Americans, 'Stanzas in Meditation' and other works in that vein, then Stein becomes the greatest experimental writer in American literature, an inventor whose achievements are, indicatively, scarcely understood, even today, more than four decades after her death."

At the center of the avant-garde in literature, art, music, and drama, the influence Stein exerted on modernism has been acknowledged by writers as diverse as Ford Madox Ford, E. M. Forster , James Joyce, Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, and Thornton Wilder. She was a primary influence on the French New Novelists and the writers of Beat Generation. Stein regarded herself as "the creative literary mind of the century," urging her readers and critics to "Think of the Bible and Homer, think of Shakespeare and think of me." With an assault on conventional literature and the means of its creation, Stein destroyed mimesis, representation, plot, causal sequence, characterization, even the referential quality of language itself. The result is liberation and a challenge that has intimidated and bored as well as inspired. As Clifton Fadiman scornfully remarked, "Miss Stein was a past master in making nothing happen very slowly." Despite her abstruseness, Gertrude Stein was a force in the creation of modern literature, entitled to inclusion here as one of the principal reshapes of the tools and forms of the literary artist and one of the leading innovators in modernist writing. The youngest of seven children, Gertrude Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Her father, a restless and often unsuccessful businessman, moved his family to Vienna when Gertrude was one year old. They would shift to Paris, back to Baltimore, and finally to Oakland, California, where Stein's father's investments in real estate and the stock market secured their fortune. Raised by governesses and tutors, Stein was emotionally neglected by both her parents.

In Paris, Leo Stein intended to become an artist but showed more talent as a shrewd collector. Stein again followed her brother; they cultivated their enthusiasm for Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. Their apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus became one of the most famous salons in history, representing ground zero of the ...