Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein, 1874–1946, American author and patron of the arts, b. Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pa. A celebrated personality, she encouraged, aided, and influenced—through her patronage as well as through her writing—many literary and artistic figures. After attending (1893–97) Radcliffe, where she was a student of William James, she began premedical work at Johns Hopkins. In 1902, relinquishing her studies, she went abroad and from 1903 until her death lived chiefly in Paris. For many years her secretary and lover was Alice B. Toklas. In Paris, Stein became interested in modern art movements; she encouraged and purchased the work of many new painters, including Picasso and Matisse. During the 1920s, she was the leader of a cultural salon that included such writers as Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, all of whose works she influenced. It was she who first coined the phrase "lost generation" for those post–World War I expatriates. During World War II she remained in France, and after the war her Paris home became a meeting place for American soldiers.

Stein's own innovative writing emphasizes the sounds and rhythms rather than the sense of words. By departing from conventional meaning, grammar, and syntax, she attempted to capture "moments of consciousness," independent of time and memory. Her first published work was Three Lives (completed 1905, pub. 1909), short stories in which she explored the mental processes of three women, but her most characteristic and probably most difficult narrative is the lengthy, dark, dense, and repetitive The Making of Americans (completed 1911, pub. 1925). The famous Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), a linear narrative written in relatively ordinary language, is the story of her own life presented as that of her companion. Stein's critical essays were published as Composition as Explanation (1926), How to Write (1931), Narration (1935), and Lectures in America (1935). Her many other works include the volume of poetry Tender Buttons (1914), a series of "cubist" verbal portraits; two librettos for the operas of Virgil Thomson, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947); Wars I Have Seen (1945), some personal observations; and Brewsie and Willie (1946), about American soldiers in France.

See biographies by J. M. Brinnin (1959, repr. 1987) and J. Hobhouse (1975); D. Souhami, Gertrude and Alice (1992); B. Kellner, ed., A Gertrude Stein Companion (1988); A. B. Toklas, What Is Remembered (1963, repr. 1985); J. R. Mellow, Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company (1974, repr. 1991); L. Simon, ed., Gertrude Stein Remembered (1994); B. Wineapple, Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein (1996); J. Malcolm, Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (2007); studies by R. Dubnick (1984), J. L. Walker (1984), and U. E. Dydo (2003); bibliography by R. A. Wilson and A. Uphill (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Gertrude Stein: Selected full-text books and articles

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas By Gertrude Stein Random House, 1933
FREE! Geography and Plays By Gertrude Stein Four Seas, 1922
Gender and Genre in Gertrude Stein By Franziska Gygax Greenwood Press, 1998
Gertrude Stein: The Language That Rises : 1923-1934 By Ulla E. Dydo; William Rice Northwestern University Press, 2003
Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community By Jessica Berman Cambridge University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Gertrude Stein"
Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade By Karen Jackson Ford University Press of Mississippi, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Gertrude Stein: A Crazy Quilt of Style"
A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery By Margueritte S. Murphy University of Massachusetts Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons: Beyond Description: A New Domestic Language"
Queer Poetics: Five Modernist Women Writers By Mary E. Galvin Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "'This Shows It All': Gertrude Stein and the Reader's Role in the Creation of Significance"
Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and the Biographical Act By Charles Caramello University of North Carolina Press, 1996
Stein, Bishop & Rich: Lyrics of Love, War & Place By Margaret Dickie University of North Carolina Press, 1997
Gertrude Stein Remembered By Linda Simon University of Nebraska Press, 1994
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.