Stein, Gertrude - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature
Janet Malcolm examines the charged relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. She developed a personal relationship with parts of speech, phonetics, morphology With the publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in , Stein. Go and ask the farmer there whose house that is, Gertrude Stein said to me. Stein wrote “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” in the fall of , in a .. of them about their relationship—as it was the custom of the day not to utter it. .. He was a little wary of me at first and then gradually began to trust me.
She developed an interest in psychology and took courses taught by William James brother of the novelist Henry Jamesnow known as the father of American psychology. Critics have suggested that her interest in consciousness and attention influenced her later experiments in repetition, a hallmark of her modernist writing.
According to the Harvard CrimsonStein and James were often of the same mind. I often feel exactly that way myself. In the beginning, she excelled in her studies. She also formed close friendships with the few other female medical students and got along well with her professors.
But in her third and fourth years at Johns Hopkins, institutional sexism and professional barriers led to disillusionment. From then untilthe apartment was a mecca for artists of the modernist avant-garde. But they also bought works by unknown painters that would later be viewed as masterpieces, including early Cubist paintings by Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris, and Expressionist pictures by Henri Matisse.
Pablo Picasso started to work on a portrait of Stein shortly after their first meeting in The oil-on-canvas painting, completed inis considered one of the most important works of his Rose Period.
Stein later complained that it took between 80 and 90 sittings for the Spanish master to achieve his vision of her, which is now part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her figure is represented by minimal shapes and her mask-like face foreshadows his experiments in Cubism. Neither Stein nor her partner, Alice B. Toklas, knew how to drive a car. But when they volunteered for the American Fund for the French Wounded, an organization that helped soldiers in France during World War I, they had to provide and drive their own supply vehicles.
The couple ordered a Ford truck from the U. She and Toklas would drive for miles to bring supplies to French hospitals although Virginia Scharff, in her book Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age, wrote that Stein never really mastered the art of driving in reverse. Stein met Hemingway in through the American novelist Sherwood Anderson. The pair initially hit it off. Stein took Hemingway under her wing and allegedly helped him rewrite his memoir of the First World War, which would later become A Farewell to Arms.
The book turned into an overnight sensation. The American public became fascinated with Stein's colorful persona, with what she called the Lost Generation, and with the era of cubism and modernism. The short anecdotes, telling all in their legendarylike style, captured the imagination of a public infatuated with celebrities. Toklas's narrative voice allowed Stein to seize the center of the stage.
She presented herself as a child prodigy, the favorite student of William James, the pioneer of the modernist literary genre, the one who discovered Picasso and many other artists in the art world of Paris, just to name a few.
Alice Toklas, 89, Is Dead In Paris
The reader learns about Picasso's financial hardship and artistic struggle during the early period of his career. Stein recalls minute details and anecdotes about Picasso; his circle of friends; and even his mistress, Fernande Olivier. Ironically, Picasso had no command of the English language, and therefore could not read The Autobiography.
In Everybody's AutobiographyStein recalls an evening she and Alice spent with Picasso and his wife, Olga, after they returned to Paris. Stein offered to read from The Autobiography, which by then was quite popular. As she translated passages from the book into colloquial French, Picasso, listening attentively, corrected some details, but his wife got up and left. Apparently, Olga was offended by the frequent mentioning of Fernande Olivier, Picasso's former lover.
For two years afterwards, Stein did not see Picasso again. They resumed their friendship only after Picasso separated from Olga. The immense success of the book brought in a large income. For the first time, at the age of sixty, Stein earned substantial money. Fame and money made her a celebrity.
She was invited everywhere as she recalled later in Everybody's Autobiography, the sequel autobiography: I always will go anywhere once and I rather liked doing what I had never done before, going everywhere.
It was pleasant being a lion, and meeting the people who make it pleasant for you to be a lion. This was a collection of responses to The Autobiography written by the actual artists portrayed in her anecdotes.
Fuming with anger, they refuted her interpretation of the art world of Paris. Transition's editor, Eugene Jolas wrote: These documents invalidate the claim of the Toklas-Stein memorial that Miss Stein was in any way concerned with the shaping of the epoch she attempts to describe.
There is unanimity of opinion that she had no understanding of what really was happening around her, that the mutation of ideas beneath the surface of the more obvious contacts and clashes of personalities during that period escaped her entirely.
Her participation in the genesis and development of such movements as Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, Transition [sic] etc. Exegetical and Critical Writings Stein published her philosophy of writing and explained her literary techniques in quite a number of volumes and essays: Therefore, patriarchal critics misconstrued Stein's lesbian texts.
In Women of the Left Bank: Many critics see Alice Toklas's arrival in Stein's life as a catalyst, unleashing her hidden sexuality into her writings: Although it was obvious to all, Stein never admitted her lesbianism publicly. If Stein ever wanted to be published, she had to acquire a mechanism of opaque writing, as it was not feasible to discuss homosexuality openly at the beginning of the twentieth century. This theory may also explain Stein's preoccupation with the equal value of words and equal parts of the whole.
There was no right or wrong; there was no one way of loving. To justify her lesbian love as equal to heterosexual love in any respect, Stein had to restructure equality in words and meanings.
She needed to re-create literature so that it would encompass and embrace a multiplicity of language and culture, manifested splendidly in her lyrical expression of lesbian sexuality, Lifting Belly.
Furthermore, such critics argue, Alice's influence on Stein's writing is grossly underrated. In Alice, Stein found a critical reader, her other half, who could support and nurture her writing. Alice's role as a wife, lover, secretary, and housekeeper released Stein from all domestic responsibilities and enabled her to concentrate on her creative energy.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas: A lesbian love story
These inequalities stem from the prevailing patriarchy in language and society. Unlike her modernist contemporaries, she adopted this unstable signifier as her device to upend accepted patriarchal norms in the avant-garde literary movement of the twentieth century. Even when she apparently used the patriarchal meaning of signifier and signified, she overturned them completely.
They are between legs. Scholars, who comprehend Stein's language as closely related to her sexual orientation, can justify the fact that for more than sixty years the bulk of Stein's writings was elusive.
Moreover, she associated her genius with the predominant patriarchal genius of her male peers: Moi aussi [me too], perhaps. Nevertheless, despite what these scholars suggested, Stein vehemently denied any correlation between her sexual orientation and the ingenuity of her writings.
An American lecture tour could promote a sequel autobiography and boost Stein's popularity in America. Stein was getting increasingly curious about the country she had left thirty-one years earlier but decided to travel to America only after months of deliberations: Champlain and arrived in New York Harbor seven days later.
In evaluating the grand lecture tour in America, she repeatedly mentions and compares France to the United States. Bluntly, she admits that Alice Toklas wanted to come back to live there. I like Paris and I like six months in the country but I like Paris.
Everybody says it is not very nice now but I like Paris and I like to live there. Six years before the tour, Transition surveyed a number of expatriate American writers who lived in Paris. She knew that she would not be accepted into society and would always remain marginalized as a writer. At any rate, in Paris among other lesbian artists of the Left Bank, she was neither excommunicated nor ostracized. She was one of many. She could write freely, preserving her identity and her creativity: Never have done, never could have done, never could have done again; that is the way my life in America began and is begun and is going on.
On 23 July she managed to write a will, guaranteeing Toklas's control over her estate, donating her Picasso portrait to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and her unpublished manuscripts to the Yale University Library, and entrusting her lifelong friend, Carl Van Vechten, with the funds to publish the entire corpus of her unpublished works.
On 27 July, Stein died of cancer during the operation while still under sedation.