I am trying to put together a thesis statement for a final paper in my American Modernism Class and I am stumped. My first thought was to discuss Gertrude Stein's work and the influence of her sexuality. I am thinking that may not be enough and way to vague to pull off a 15 page paper. I could compare her to male writers of that time period....Hemingway, Eliot, Whitman, etc.
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Focusing a thesis on Gertrude Stein's work and the influence of her sexuality would be, I think, a little too limiting. Focusing on Stein's work within the very unique and special milieu in which she lived in Paris during the early half of the 20th Century, however, would provide the basis of a fine, and very interesting, thesis. That milieu represented one of the most interesting in modern history, particularly the era known as "the Lost Generation," which comprised literary and artistic talents the concentration of virtually defies imagination. Stein and her companion, Alice Toklas, were regular participants in informal round-tables that included Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. A thesis that allows for inclusion of Stein's interactions with such inestimable figures can't help but be fascinating to both write and to read. Reviewing Fitzgerald's newest novel, The Great Gatsby, Stein wrote to the author, “Here we are and have read your book and it is a good book.”
Stein was an important literary and cultural figure in pre-World War II American history. Her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas provided one of the more amusing and erudite autobiographies ever written, focusing as it did on her own life. [See the link below to the complete text of that book] Stein's sexuality, of course, was part of her character, but any thesis can emphasize the degree to which she held her own among such testosterone-fueled figures as Hemingway and Picasso -- a notable characteristic during a period when women continued to struggle for more equitable treatment. She was a strong, feminist icon who was deeply immersed in an artistic and social environment the likes of which we won't likely see again. Writing about her life -- educated as a physician but bored by academia; departs for France to live with her brother; takes as her lover Alice B. Toklas; interacts as an equal with the era's most luminous literary and artistic figures -- should not prove overly burdensome. A good first step would be to immerse oneself in the atmosphere of "the Lost Generation" while perusing her "autobiography." Comparing her writing, for example, Three Lives, with that of Hemingway and Fitzgerald would provide for a useful section of a thesis, and would help fill-out the spacial requirements dictated for the thesis in question.
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