Book Review: Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour

8th November 2021

Francesca Mancino, Case Western Reserve University

Robert Volpicelli, Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)

In his study of the transatlantic lecture circuits of Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, Gertrude Stein, and W. H. Auden, Robert Volpicelli explores the difficulty of balancing one’s role as a writer with that of a lecturer. In spite of divergences in personalities and lecture topics, this juxtaposition is attributed to how one adjusts to their wavering sense of ‘personal dislocation’ (2). Volpicelli suggests that this sense of dislocation is particularly personal and spatial, seen in his description of Auden as a ‘poet-turned-projectile’ (2). Aside from the evident physical aspect of transatlantic travel, this ‘projectile’-like movement is applicable to self-dislocation and the transition from writer-to-lecturer. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour”

Come Dine With Me: Gertrude Stein and the Performative Act of Dining

7 December 2020

Rebekka Jolley, Liverpool Hope University

Richard Schechner unpacks the often-overcomplicated term ‘performative’. He clarifies that performative as an adjective ‘inflects what it modifies with performance-like qualities’.[1]In this article, performative will be used as an adjective to demonstrate how Gertrude Stein unveils dining as a ritualised performative act within her early plays: White Wines Three Acts (1913) and Turkey and Bones and Eating and We Liked It A Play (1916). This piece is interdisciplinary and draws on a close reading of the texts to establish the performative acts that are unveiled through the dialogue, as well as an enquiry into the staging of these pieces and the inclusion of the audience as part of the performative act. Continue reading “Come Dine With Me: Gertrude Stein and the Performative Act of Dining”

Book Review: The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives

7 December 2020

Eilish Mulholland, The Queen’s University of Belfast

Melanie Micir, The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)

The history of Anglo-American modernism can feel monolithic in definition. Ranging from a plethora of guides, anthologies, curricula and collections to commemorative tea towels, mugs, tote bags and tell-all biographies, the understanding seems to be that modernism was formed by a group of definitive writers such as Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemmingway, James Joyce, W.H. Auden and Wallace Stevens. The history of modernism appears to be firmly settled in the form of articles, novels and critical commentary in which we come to know writers intimately. We know of their friends, family and lovers. We know from journals and letters every intimate detail about their lives. We know even where they visited and even what they ate and drank. These snippets of life and style are at first unassuming. Amid reading, writing and researching, amongst the frenzy of collating and connecting we fall into an assumption, an assumption that when it comes to a writer’s biography,we always assume that the information we desire will simply be there. Continue reading “Book Review: The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives”

Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford

2nd October 2020 

Nanette O’Brien, Independent Scholar

One of the most celebrated French gourmands and scholars of gastronomy, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), provides a surprising foundation for modernist thinking about taste, sensation, and culture. Brillat-Savarin describes the sensations of taste and muses on the cultural and social powers of food in his Physiologie du gout, or in English: The Physiology of Taste (1825). Two writers associated with modernism – Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein – both spent periods of their lives living in France and had an interest in Brillat-Savarin and in French cookery. In this short essay, I briefly outline Ford and Stein’s relationships to Brillat-Savarin and how he is connected to their interest in French food and culture and to Ford’s Impressionism and Stein’s abstract style. Though this essay is by no means exhaustive, I argue that in looking backwards to an idealised past inhabited by Brillat-Savarin, Stein and Ford formulated their ideas about modern food and culture.[1]

Continue reading “Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford”

Reading English-Language Literature in Interwar Paris: A Conversation with Joshua Kotin and Rebecca Sutton Koeser About the Shakespeare and Company Project

Sylvia Beach (right) and Stephen Vincent Benét (center) at Shakespeare and Company, circa 1920 [Princeton University Library Special Collections]

4 August 2020

Camey VanSant, Princeton University

What was Gertrude Stein reading in the 1920s? And who was reading Gertrude Stein?

These are the kinds of questions addressed by the Shakespeare and Company Project, a web application that brings to life the world of Shakespeare and Company, a bookshop and lending library in interwar Paris. Founded in 1919 by American expatriate Sylvia Beach (1887–1962), Shakespeare and Company counted among its members Stein, James Joyce, Aimé Césaire, Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, and other prominent artists and intellectuals. Shakespeare and Company is also famous as a publisher; when no one else dared, Beach published Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) under the Shakespeare and Company imprint. Although Beach’s business closed in 1941, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, she continued to lend books to friends and acquaintances for the rest of her life. Continue reading “Reading English-Language Literature in Interwar Paris: A Conversation with Joshua Kotin and Rebecca Sutton Koeser About the Shakespeare and Company Project”

Book Review: British Literature and Culture in Second World Wartime

4 August 2020

Kevin Neuroth, Humboldt University of Berlin and King’s College London

Beryl Pong, British Literature and Culture in Second World Wartime (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)

In our understanding of modernism – both as a cultural movement and as a historical process – the First World War occupies a central place. There is a broad consensus among scholars that the experiences of the years 1914-18 played a central role in the development of the high modernism of the 1920s, from the experience of shell shock represented in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the mood of civilisational collapse pervading T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). By comparison, the 1930s and 1940s remain under-researched. In her book Modernism and World War II (2007), Marina MacKay (University of Oxford) argues for the ‘historical and political’ importance of late modernism and wonders why so ‘little of the [Second World] war’s literature has ever fully registered on the critical field of vision’[1]. Continue reading “Book Review: British Literature and Culture in Second World Wartime”

Late Stylist: Gertrude Stein’s Affective Time

Hyunjung Kim, Texas A&M University

3rd July 2020

‘Art’s autonomy shows signs of blindness,’ writes Theodor W. Adorno.[1] In Invalid Modernism(2019), Michael Davidson observes that Adorno metaphorically links ‘blindness to willed unknowing’ to begin his theory of aesthetics ‘to represent art’s refusal of the mimetic, the familiar, the true.’[2] To rewrite these statements, perhaps a little more poetically, we might understand an Adornian sense of willful blindness as an effort in search of different modes of seeing, connecting, and living by pursuing an active negation of the existing relations we have with otherness. Evoking Gertrude Stein’s perhaps most quoted line, ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,’ this willful blindness reads as a gesture to attune to rose differently, to acknowledge that we see rose differently, to sense blue in what has been so long associated with red, or to imagine a shape that does not necessarily take the form of rose at all. Or we might also say, with the first line of Tender Buttons(1914), ‘A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass’, Stein obscures the original shape and purpose of a glass, making it ‘blind’ and thus opaque, impermeable, and impermissible. Continue reading “Late Stylist: Gertrude Stein’s Affective Time”

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