Gertrude Stein: Composition as Meditation

  • Ulla E. Dydo


Stein had discovered early that the only way she could come to terms with her experience was to write it. But writing was difficult. The love affair of 1901–3 told in her first novel, Q. E. D., and the descriptions of acquaintances entered in her first notebooks record her struggle to comprehend her perceptions as her struggle to write them. Throughout the years, struggle characterised writing. The popular picture of Gertrude Stein working at her ample desk with easy concentration is part of the self-protective fiction created by The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and by its carefully chosen illustrations. It is far from the truth. Writing things as they were required stern discipline and created painful loneliness. The experience Stein tried to shape in words was sometimes depressing or frightening, which made it doubly difficult to overcome her resistance to seeing and saying it. Even when her perception was not painful, writing was a struggle.


Love Affair Public Personality Ordinary Thing Referential Connection North American Literature 
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  1. 1.
    Mabel Dodge Luhan, ‘Speculations or Post-Impressions in Prose’, Arts and Decorations 3 (1913) 172–4. It appears likely that Mabel Dodge relied at least in part on Gertrude Stein’s own descriptions of her method. Since not all letters from Gertrude Stein are preserved, however, it is impossible to determine exactly what her statements may have been and how Mabel Dodge made use of them.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Gertrude Stein and Leon Mendez Solomons, ‘Normal Motor Automatism’, Psychological Review, III, 5 (Sep 1896) 492–512.Google Scholar

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© Ulla E. Dydo 1988

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  • Ulla E. Dydo

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