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American Modernism's Expatriate SceneThe Labour of Translation$
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Daniel Katz

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748625260

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625260.001.0001

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Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, and the American Language

Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, and the American Language

(p.95) Chapter 5 Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, and the American Language
American Modernism's Expatriate Scene

Daniel Katz

Edinburgh University Press

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

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