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Dynamic FormHow Intermediality Made Modernism$
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Cara L. Lewis

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749179

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749179.001.0001

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Surface Forms

Surface Forms

Photography and Gertrude Stein’s Contact History of Modernism

(p.178) Chapter 5 Surface Forms
Dynamic Form

Cara L. Lewis

Cornell University Press

This chapter investigates how Gertrude Stein plays with the Künstlerroman. In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), she offers her own assessment of the position of the artist in a saturated media marketplace. Reading The Autobiography alongside Stein's other work, the chapter examines Stein's deployment of photographic illustrations, tropes, and techniques as a crucial strategy in her attempt to picture the history of modernism and to secure her spot within it. In particular, The Autobiography's underexamined photographs show how an ostensibly formless form—the surface—becomes the instrument of Stein's experimental history, as she skims across major developments in modernist and avant-garde art and literature and touches on as many famous figures as possible. In this way, while earlier chapters discuss the forms that populate modernist texts or the formal theories that purport to elucidate them, the chapter turns to the forms taken by modernism itself, which takes shape in the “contact zone” of The Autobiography.

Keywords:   Gertrude Stein, Künstlerroman, photography, modernism, surface forms, modernist art, avant-garde art, modernist literature, avant-garde literature

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