"We Understand That You Undertake to Overthrow Our Undertaking." Sulla critica cubista delle opere di Gertrude Stein


  • Enrico Frigeni





The article takes into account the way in which Gertrude Stein’s literary works have been interpreted by critics over the years. Following the writer’s own cue, scholars – starting with Stein’s long-time friend and admirer, Mable Dodge – have been inclined to view her baffling and sometimes obscure writing as an attempt to reproduce, through the literary medium, the project and the creative impulse behind the creation of the cubist avant-garde movement. Given Stein’s well-documented friendship with Picasso, literary critics have generally been willing to draw a comparison between the artists’ oeuvre in order to shed light on the challenging style of Stein’s pieces. Although this critical method has proved very prolific over the years, this paper explores the limitations of such an approach, especially for the interpretation of Stein’s post-1914 works (in which her style radically changed). While I discuss how the over-reliance on the cubist interpretative method might lead to inconsistencies in the analysis of her works, I suggest, in the final part of the article, that a parallel between Stein’s Tender Buttons and Piet Mondrian’s neoplastic painterly technique might provide a better frame of reference for the understanding of some of her works.