© 2016

The Composition of Sense in Gertrude Stein's Landscape Writing


  • Launches a new approach for understanding Stein’s experimental writing

  • Interprets vital texts in Stein’s work including poetry, plays, portraiture, and anti-narratives

  • Practices Stein’s radical epistemology as a method of reading in place of conventional rationalism


Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)

About this book


This book offers a bold critical method for reading Gertrude Stein’s work on its own terms by forgoing conventional explanation and adopting Stein’s radical approach to meaning and knowledge. Inspired by the immanence of landscape, both of Provence where she travelled in the 1920s and the spatial relations of landscape painting, Stein presents a new model of meaning whereby making sense is an activity distributed in a text and across successive texts. From love poetry, to plays and portraiture, Linda Voris offers close readings of Stein’s most anthologized and less known writing in a case study of a new method of interpretation. By practicing Stein’s innovative means of making sense, Voris reveals the excitement of her discoveries and the startling implications for knowledge, identity, and intimacy.


Gertrude Stein Landscape Writing Philosophy Modernism American Literature

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.American UniversityWashington, District of ColumbiaUSA

About the authors

Linda Voris is Associate Professor of Literature at American University, Washington, D.C., USA. Her publications have appeared in Modernism/modernity, Studies in American Fiction, and American Women Poets in the 21st-Century.  

Bibliographic information


“Linda Voris’s The Composition of Sense in Gertrude Stein’s Landscape Writing is, quite simply, a game-changer for Stein scholarship. This important monograph proposes a radical new critical approach to Stein’s work … .” (Georgina Nugent-Folan, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Vol. 37 (2), 2018)

“A stunningly concrete, lucid, and rich account of how Stein’s radical empiricism becomes an imaginative method for establishing for writing the possibilities of a continuous present and infinitely mobile spatial relations.  Voris is a supple reader of Modernist painting—so the variety and intricacy of her accounts of Stein's writing is simply riveting.” (Charles Altieri, Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

“Voris brilliantly shows that key Stein plays and portraits. . . make perfect compositional sense.  This is one of the very best studies of Gertrude Stein to date: it makes the reader SEE how Stein’s difficult but endlessly fascinating ’radical empiricism’ really works.”  (Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of English, Stanford University, and Professor Emerita, University of Southern California, USA)

“Voris convincingly shows that Stein’s view of knowledge as a composed space requires from us an epistemological shift. If we can manage it, as Stein did, the outcome is liberation from reason’s linearity. This magnificent book is exhilarating on multiple fronts, and it is not only Stein scholars who should avidly read it.” (Lyn Hejinian, poet, essayist and Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley, USA)

“This book is a true elucidation (in Gertrude Stein’s sense of the word). This is the most nuanced, attentive, and patient reading of Stein since Ulla Dydo set the bar for Voris to surpass. It will radically alter the landscape, as it were, of modernist criticism.” (Craig Dworkin, poet and Professor of English, University of Utah, USA)