Publication date:

16 October 2014

Length of book:

320 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739183199

Recent scholarly trends and controversies in Gertrude Stein scholarship have focused on her politics and her friendships as well as on Stein the collector, the celebrity, the visual icon. Clearly, these recent examinations not only deepen our understanding of Stein but also attest to her staying power. Yet Stein’s writing itself too often remains secondary. The central premise of Primary Stein is that an extraordinary amount of textual scholarship remains to be done on Stein’s work, whether the well-known, the little-known, or yet unpublished. The essays in Primary Stein draw on recent interdisciplinary examinations, using cultural and historical contexts to enrich and complicate how we might read, understand, and teach Stein’s writing. Following Stein’s own efforts throughout her lifetime to shift the focus from her personality to her writing, these innovative essays turn the lens back to a wide range of her texts, including novels, plays, lectures and poetry. Each essay takes Stein’s primary works as its core interpretive focus, returning scholarly conversations to the challenges and pleasures of working with Stein’s texts.
These 14 essays contribute to growing scholarship about Stein as a modernist. Boyd and Kirsch aim to shift focus from Stein’s biography, celebrity, art collecting, and salon to her writing, especially her experimental pieces, and her method of composition. Some contributors examine little-known pieces, such as the play For the Country Entirely and the narratives 'Subject Cases: The Background of a Detective Story' and 'Why Are There Whites to Console'; others take a fresh look at better-known pieces, such as Wars I Have Seen and Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights. Neil Schmitz offers a witty take on Tender Buttons, reading the work in the context of Stein’s falling out with her brother Leo. Steven Gould Axelrod argues against claims that Stein was a Nazi sympathizer by reading her novel Mrs. Reynolds as 'a hate letter to Hitler.' Curator Gabrielle Dean traces the history of Plain Editions, the publishing venture that enabled Stein to publish her early works. Several writers consider themes of time, space, and movement. Two appendixes illuminate Yale’s Stein archive. A wide-ranging collection that includes works not usually given scholarly attention. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.