31 July 2008

Stein and Repetition

After thinking over "Tender Buttons" and our class discussion of Tuesday, I'm still having trouble understanding the purpose of Stein's use of repetition. I don't see how writing the same word (such as "yes") over and over makes a poem. As Emilie stated in class, if we were to do this and turn it in to a creative writing class, we'd get an F.

I cannot help but wonder if Stein was published and rose to fame more because of who she was than because of what she was doing.


Richard Rossi said...

I don't know about that last part. I don't know that you can dismiss the whole body of Stein's work based on "Tender Buttons" even if you judge the work to be an artistic failure. It undoubtedly had an influence on a whole generation (or two) of poets and that, all by itself, makes it an important work.

My real problem with it is that I don't totally buy the thesis on which it is based, viz. that language shapes our experience, as Marjorie Pearloff suggests in her essay "The Difference is Spreading" (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19342)

If you read her article and examine her analysis of "A Carafe, That is a Blind Glass" I think you see that she is bringing her own experience of glass to the analysis of what the word means. So is language shaping experience or is experience shaping language?

I think, in general, you can make a case for either position but neither is true all the time.

Snehal said...

Well, language doesn't entirely shape experience, but it is constitutive of experience, especially insofar as you have to put an experience into language and images in order for something like memory and/or narrative. Remember that Stein also believes that words have histories and acquire weight that distorts their ability to reflect new experiences or to express them freshly -- so part of the project is to find a way to defamiliarize language and to shake it free of some of its conventions so that it can be remade into something more useful, beautiful.