"No there there": Gertrude Stein, negation, and critical reception
Cole, Barbara A
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"No There There: Gertrude Stein, Negation, and Critical Reception" examines Stein's uniquely challenging long works and uniquely challenged critical reception in order to theorize her "poetics of negation." Using Stein's oft-quoted quip about American suburbia as embodying "no there there" as a comment similarly apropos of critical lack, this dissertation investigates the problem of critical reception by: (1) enacting close readings of Stein's "poetics of negation;" and, (2) examining Stein criticism as a case study in "critical negation." This argument proposes that Stein's work uniquely suffers from critical negations not merely because of the nature of the writing itself but also because of the onus her writing places on literary critics in particular. This study begins by locating a methodology in Stein's essays and lectures and turns, in the second chapter, to her magnum opus and most overlooked text, The Making of Americans , as the foundational text for her poetics of negation. The next chapter offers an in-depth comparative analysis of Stein and James Joyce, specifically offering an alternative literary history, a close reading of the "no" in Ulysses in relation to Stein's poetics of negation, and engaging Joyce's reception as a foil to Stein's. The fourth and fifth chapters model a reading practice of negation in Stein's later works, including A Novel of Thank You, Stanzas in Meditation , and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas , while tracing how "critical negation" impacts reception. By way of concluding, Stein's legacy and the question of critical reception are considered via other modernist writers as well as contemporary poetry and politics.