Gertrude Stein and the Making of Jewish Modernism
“Will become the defining analysis of the question of Jewishness in Stein’s writing—a question absolutely crucial to understanding this great modernist writer. An important and long-awaited contribution to Stein studies.”—Barbara Will, author of Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma
“The first full-length study of Gertrude Stein’s Jewishness and how it is central rather than ancillary to her foundational contributions to modernist literature, this book is convincing, lucidly written, and a joy to read.”—Maria Damon, author of Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries
“A thorough and wide-ranging account of Jewishness in Stein’s oeuvre, making a convincing case that for Stein, modernism and the modern were both in important senses metaphorically Jewish.”—Maren Tova Linett, author of Modernism, Feminism, and Jewishness
Challenging the assumption that modernist writer Gertrude Stein seldom integrated her Jewish identity and heritage into her work, this book uncovers Stein’s constant and varied writing about Jewish topics throughout her career. Amy Feinstein argues that Judaism was central to Stein’s ideas about modernity, showing how Stein connects the modernist era to the Jewish experience.
Combing through Stein’s scholastic writings, drafting notebooks, and literary works, Feinstein analyzes references to Judaism that have puzzled scholars. She reveals the never-before-discussed influence of Matthew Arnold as well as a hidden Jewish framework in Stein’s epic novel The Making of Americans. In Stein’s experimental “voices” poems, Feinstein identifies an explicitly Jewish vocabulary that expresses themes of marriage, nationalism, and Zionism. She also shows how Wars I Have Seen, written in Vichy France during World War II, compares the experience of wartime occupation with the historic persecution of Jews.
Affirming the importance of Jewish identity and modernist style to Gertrude Stein’s legacy as a writer, this book radically changes the way we read and appreciate Stein’s work.
Amy Feinstein teaches English at a public high school in New York City.
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