Rescued readings: a reconstruction of Gertrude Stein's difficult texts

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Wayne State University Press, 1992 - Literary Criticism - 146 pages
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Gertrude Stein's texts provoke readers. Rescued Readings, concentrating on the interaction of Stein's lesbianism and her art, emphasizes the dynamics of this provocation. The relationship between sexuality and textuality deserves attention, not least because Stein's use of her homosexuality as a subject for her work has too long isolated her, making her texts "unreadable." Fifer argues that Stein's equivocal attitude toward her homosexuality, repeatedly discussed in many of the works she chose not to publish during her lifetime, is the basis of her experimental style. Regardless of the particularities of the time or place of their production, Stein's erotic subjects produce similar patterns of complex language and experimental narrative strategies. Fifer examines how we can learn to "read" these patterns and strategies, just as we can "decode" Stein's conscious manipulation of an oblique vocabulary of lesbian eroticism, in order to deepen our appreciation of Stein's art. The particular literary works under discussion include parts of the Yale Edition of The Unpublished Writings; three volumes of her plays, Geography and Plays, Operas and Plays, Last Operas and Plays; and one prose work, Useful Knowledge. Fifer presents an introduction to Stein's manifest and hidden texts, and provides an overview of intention and technique, exploring the defensive mechanisms of key texts from different points in Stein's career. Rescued Readings also explores the revealing and concealing modes of Stein's erotic language, her "conversations" with readers and others, and the effect of her choosing the homosexual alliance as her specific paradigm for the relationship between reader and writer.

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