In what way did Gertrude Stein alter writers in Paris? Is she a modernist?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gertrude Stein's influence in the Parisian art and literary worlds during the first part of the 20th century is inestimable. She was a primary catalyst of the modern art and modern literature movements, and her art studio was one of the first to showcase the works of Matisse and Picasso--she was friends with both.  Her poetry and writing was innovative and an influence to her friends like Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson and Thornton Wilder. She is credited with coining the phrase "Lost Generation" for the many American expatriot writers living in Paris during the early 1920s.

Stein's own writing was revolutionary in both sound and content. Her use of repetition was a trademark as were her "word portraits." Her novel, Q.E.D. (1903), was one of the first "coming out" books and revealed her own sexual preferences. 

Living in Paris during the decade when French cubists were transforming the definition of visual art, Stein filled copybook after copybook with sentences that employed words as if they were pieces in a verbal collage. The result was an evocative, nonrepresentational prose that provoked endless ridicule in contemporary reviewers but that continues to fascinate literary scholars to this day.

Stein's influence was such that she was more often "talked about" than actually read, although her later novel, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, made her a household word on both sides of the Atlantic.

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