Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, and the American Language

Daniel Katz

in American Modernism's Expatriate Scene

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625260
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652006 | DOI:
Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, and the American Language

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This chapter outlines Gertrude Stein's clear dialectic of expatriate estrangement as preservation of cultural identity in the context of Wyndham Lewis's article ‘The Dumb Ox’, a largely negative if ultimately ambivalent account of what Lewis sees as Stein's pernicious influence on Ernest Hemingway. The spoken, democratic and demotic for Lewis inevitably lead to the ‘vulgar’ and ‘vernacular’ in the strictest sense, as the American idiom threatens to become a vector of enslavement for all the groups Lewis believes should occupy the position of Master. According to Lewis, Hemingway's style is notable above all for two elements: its use of the language of the ‘urban proletariat’ and its incorporation of certain techniques derived from Stein. The ‘Jews’ are not simply a ‘low’ race within a complex fantasmatic hierarchy. Stein frequently asserts that America is the ‘oldest’ nation, as it was the first to enter the twentieth century.

Keywords: Gertrude Stein; Wyndham Lewis; Dumb Ox; Ernest Hemingway; American idiom; cultural identity

Chapter.  9599 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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