In an interview with Robert Has in 1946 Stein claims that she became interested in individual words (as oppose to paragraphs or sentences), “l took individual words and thought about them until I got their weight and volume complete and put them next to one another word, and at this same time I found out very soon that there is no such thing as putting them together without sense. It is impossible to put them together without sense. I made innumerable efforts to make words write without sense and found it impossible. Hades 58-59) The sounds of words, the multiple meaning of words, and other modernist views on word usage drive this undeniable meaning behind Gertrude Stein’s writing. Pamela Hades brings meaning to these words in a way that we can understand as one defined thing. I argue that the abstraction in Gertrude Stein’s writing is layered with meaning that we view like a painting and let the work lend itself to more than one definition. Through the manipulation of words Gertrude Stein creates cubist writing that is multidimensional. Pamela Hades flattens the magnitude of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.
I believe that Hades’ article brings biographical elements that lend themselves to a stricter meaning of Gertrude Stein’s work. Many writers draw from their own lives when writing but I believe Stein’s true purpose is to create something new, innovative, and abstract. Hades defines Tender Buttons as: “a story of how one lives with perceptions of change and differences of all sorts, from the unreliable meanings of language to those psychological differences between men and women, past and future, brother ND sisters, and signs of life among them.
All these differences are reflected in the inhabiting perceptions that Stein bring to the objects, food, and rooms that constitute her most private life” (Hades 61). Tender Buttons is not strictly Gertrude Stein’s private life but rather life’s universal simplicity, order, or lack thereof. I believe that Gertrude Stein’s work in Tender Buttons uses elements from art to build up her writing in a four dimensional world filled with imagery, sound, repetition, shapes, and color. Her words are like brush strokes and placed particularly to structure her ententes and paragraphs creating a style that is not strictly prose, or poetry, or essay.
Therefore it cannot be confined to a traditional two dimensional approach to writing words on worlds with words word w. Around the time Gertrude Stein wrote Tender Buttons she was experiencing an emotionally driven relationship shift. Stein was very close with her brother and he ends up moving out of their house because Gertrude Stein had found the love of her life in a woman named, Alice B. Toasts. Leo Stein, Gertrude Stein’s brother, was very close to his sister growing up but was uncomfortable with his sisters open sexuality.
Pamela Hades uses this biographical information to argue a good deal of the meaning behind Stein’s words and themes in Tender Buttons. The following exert from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons is analyzed by Pamela Hades from a biographical stand point. Hades believes that this passage is about Stein’s personal relationships while I argue that this passage lends its meaning more to the human understanding of space and time and not Gertrude Stein’s struggles to balance her relationship with her brother and her lover, Alice Toasts. Pamela Hades writes: “For Gertrude Stein the permanent relationship with
Alice could be seen as restitution for the loss of Leo. In addition, the writing of Tender Buttons itself seems intended to fill a real or at least potential vacancy. Thus, ‘A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance… A custom which is necessary when a box is used and taken is that a large part of the time there are three which have different connections”(Hades 66). I disagree with Hades that the use of three refers to Gertrude Stein, Leo Stein, and Alice. I find this to be an analysis of relationships in the universe as a whole.
An article entitled, “There is no there’ here: Gertrude Stein and Quantum Physics” an article written by Jan D Creakiness supports my argument that Stein is writing about space and time. The article says that Stein’s writing shares a reinterpretation of physical reality that is strikingly similar to the way quantum physics interprets reality. Both Gertrude Stein and the study of quantum physics analyze life on a macroscopic level realizing the unavoidable structure of space and time commenting on the relationships that atoms and molecules have.
The three connections in Gertrude Stein’s box are not Just about re struggle to have her brother, her and Alice Toasts getting along but a precise analytical comment of human perception. What is there in this space alluding to philosophy of what is the case and what is not the case. An abstract representation of entities with properties that have a connecting relativity, that fill up space, and transcend time. Pamela Hades interprets Gertrude Stein’s “Two,” a section of Tender Buttons, in the same way, insisting that Stein’s writing is highly biographically driven.
Leo Stein, Alice Toasts, and Gertrude Stein three people that have Just room for two: There are not two of them. There is one of them, and there is one of them. There are sometimes two of them, the one and another one. Each one of them has a sound in them. Each one of them has sound coming out of them… ” (Hades 67). This seems to be about personal identity to me. The repetition of her words and sounds provide a layering effect that allows some words to sink below while others rise to the surface. This same style of layering is used in cubist art in the way that some colors, lines, and shapes are more pronounced than others.
The words that become emphasized in Two” are: one, two, and sound. It’s like a microphone sound check: one, two, one two, sound. A representation of the way we evaluate if we’re working. I believe it also speaks on the duality of different perspectives and those which are heard compared to others which continue in silence. The biographical aspects that are most apparent in Gertrude Stein’s work to me is her involvement with the art community and her friendship with Pablo Picasso as well as other modern artists.
Gertrude Stein and he brother Leo Stein were well known art enthusiasts and collected some of the earliest arks of modern art in the 20th century from painters like: Matisse, Meant, Braque’s, Cezanne,Volcanic, Managing, Drain, as well as Picasso himself. Pablo Picasso stands out to me as an artist similar to Gertrude Stein in the fact that they pushed the envelope and tried things that people had never seen or heard of in a new form of expression. When Picasso painted a self-portrait of Gertrude Stein some say it took 8 sessions and within this expansive time Stein wrote “Melancholy. The two inspired each other forcefully. Many people feel that the portrait does not look like Gertrude Stein but she says, “l was and still am satisfied with my portrait, for me it is l, and it is the only reproduction of me which is always l, for me” (Academy of American Poets). Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein understood each other. They valued the inspirations they gave each other. Their relationship was artistically driven and both were interested in exploring the abstract depths of reality and perception. The bread down and manipulation of life.
Gertrude Stein defended her self-portrait created by Pablo Picasso for her again by attempting to translate this idea of exact resemblance into words: “Exact resemblance. To exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as a resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly a resemblance, exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because” (Academy of American Poets). These words illustrate that nothing is exact and the idea of pure recreation is impossible. There is only representation.
Picasso cubist philosophies can obviously be seen in Gertrude Stein’s use of words and they share this love of abstraction. Her portrait was donated to the Museum of Modern A when she died. Cubist art is in many ways like Gertrude Stein’s writing. The Museum of Modern Art defines cubism as a rejection of nature and traditional techniques. The cubist term defined by the playfulness within geometric shapes was coined after the French critique Louis Vacuoles saw the landscapes Braque’s had painted in 1908 emulating the works of Cezanne.
Cezanne like Gertrude Stein relied on the weight o his brush strokes the way Stein liked the weight and density of her words: “Cezanne approached composition in a anarchically way. Instead of creating a narrative in which the parts were subordinate to a central idea, Cezanne gave each brush stroke equal weight” (Barnett). Pablo Picasso also participated and developed this style that focuses on objects and strays from portraits and landscapes. These frontier artists came with a new approach to their work: “They wanted instead to emphasize the two dimensional canvas.
So they reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, an then realigned these within shallow, relief’s space. They also use multiple or contrasting vantage points” (Momma). Gertrude Stein approaches her two-dimensional canvas in the same way bringing form and illusionist to her writing. This focus on objects is also how Stein breaks up and titles her unique sections of Tender Buttons. Up to 1910 within cubist art: “the subject of a picture was usually discernible. Although figures and objects were dissected or “analyzed” into a multitude of small facets” (Momma).
These small facets are like Stein’s macroscopic awareness of words for the objects she works with. Cubist art uses abstract techniques Just like Gertrude Stein giving her writing greater dimension. Jamie Wilder writes an article entitled “After all one must know more than one sees and one does not see a cube in its entirety: Gertrude Stein and Picasso and Cubism” that supports my argument in Gertrude Stein’s connection with Pablo Picasso which drove her writing to utilize cubist philosophy.
Jamie Wilder writes: In 1938, Gertrude Stein published Picasso, a book which is part biography and part criticism of Pablo Picasso work and time. In it Stein claims “l was alone at time in understanding him perhaps because I was expressing the same thing in literature. ” The comparison between Stein’s work in the period around Tender Buttons, the period of her literary portraiture, and cubist movement in painting that Picasso helped create has been a popular one in the history of her works critical reception. Hitler 67) These similarities in approach to art stem from their use of objects.
Pablo Picasso famously depicts guitars into a line of artwork the same way Gertrude Stein depicts objects in Tender Buttons. Pablo Picasso guitars are a geometrical representation of the shapes associated with guitars but does not specifically look like a traditional guitar painted in a realistic way. Stein is multidimensional in her writing Just as Pablo Picasso is in his cubist artwork. Wendy Steiner describes the cubist forces behind Gertrude Stein’s writing and the intelligence that drives abstraction with a meaning that is more than Pamela
Hades argues in her paper, “Spreading the Difference: One Way to Read Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons”: “To think of history in a new way, not as a plotted narrative moving toward a resolution, but as a cubist painting whose elements maintain their heterogeneity-?objects people things, signs, the banal; the dramatic; the contemporaneous, the anachronism-?in the aesthetic structure of relations” (Wilder 68). The innovation and versatility in Stein’s writing appears to be rooted in cubist philosophy.
In “This is This Dress, Eider” we absolutely see what Wendy Steiner is describing by saying the “heterogeneity’ in words. The word Eider has many possible connotations. Many believe Eider is a nickname for Alice; it can mean to aid her as in to help a girl; possibly a reference to the sexual disease AIDS and the spreading of this disease, maybe it is the British pronunciation of idea; or maybe it’s a noun for someone who is a helper. Each of these interpretations works and helps to add to the depths of her writing.
The words she uses are picked one by one to create this meaning that is multidimensional. Jamie Wilder points out that because the word lends itself to many pronunciations the reader may begin to Just see a chain of teeters and these; “possible pronunciations resist visualization in a manner similar to the way a cubist canvas resists organized viewing by exploiting intersecting planes and simultaneous perspectives, and eliminating the vanishing point” (Wilder 70). The layers of her work make it no wonder that so many readers struggle with Tender Buttons so much.
Each section of this work is its own picture intended to be looked at, sounded out, and interpreted through many perspectives. Even the title of Tender Buttons makes it clear that Gertrude Stein’s writing is concerned with more than what is simply on the surface. What is a tender button is it sexual; is it sensitive; is it beauty barely held together; or does it have to be one way in this Stein’s multidimensional writing? The magnitude that Gertrude Stein understood is amazing: “If the movement takes place on the surface, then all things become equal” (Hitler 75).
She did not intend her work to be superficial. Gertrude Stein resisted traditional writing due to her interest of philosophical awareness. Stein expressed deep thought into the workings of the universe and life rejecting the scientific method because of its limits to popular perception. Gertrude Stein was not rely a traditional poet with structured boundaries that we can enclose her in like Pamela Hades proposes. Stein is a hybrid thinker that can’t be put in a box because she is thinking outside of this box, this object becoming a true definition for modern artist.
Gertrude Stein and her work in Tender Buttons is multidimensional and cannot be analyzed in textbook writing standards. Her writing provides more than a possible glimpse of what she experienced in her life and is more complex than Pamela Hades gives her credit for in the article, “Spreading the Difference: One Way to Read Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Through philosophical understanding, range of magnitude in dimension and time, repetition, and other unique elements Gertrude Stein creates writing that is in many ways like cubist art.