Production and reproduction: Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Rod Rosenquist, Gaston Franssen (Editor), Rick Honings (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapter

Abstract

Literary scholarship provides ample exploration of Gertrude Stein the experimental writer and her artistic coterie circles, largely focusing on her early limited-circulation publications and her Paris salon, but is also beginning to establish a clear outline of Gertrude Stein the celebrity and her mass markets, particularly those based in America. This chapter will focus on the moments when the two Steins met one another – first, in the reception of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, but more particularly in the circumstances when Stein arrives in Times Square to see a moving electric sign announcing, ‘Gertrude Stein Has Arrived’, as related in her second autobiography. This sign is more than an illustration of Stein’s celebrated ‘arrival’ in 1934 – it is a disturbing instance of the power of the proliferation and replication of aura in an age of celebrity. The chapter will use Walter Benjamin’s contemporary essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936) to explore the mass market reproductions of Stein’s artistic aura, first examining how her unique prose style – an example of authorial self-projection, or imprimatur – is copied and parodied in newspaper columns and advertisements, but also how her name and image become separated from her work, and she becomes, in the words of Daniel J. Boorstin’s definition of celebrity, ‘well-known for being well-known.’ This is ultimately disturbing to Stein, who wants her work to remain the root of the public’s interest in her. She describes how the electronic sign announcing her arrival is ‘upsetting’, raising questions related to aesthetic, cultural and economic values and ultimately her own ‘recognition and non-recognition’ of herself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCelebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Pages133-155
Number of pages209
ISBN (Print)9781137558671
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2016

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Rosenquist, R., Franssen, G. (Ed.), & Honings, R. (Ed.) (2016). Production and reproduction: Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). In Celebrity Authorship and Afterlives in English and American Literature (pp. 133-155). Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-55868-8