“New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio: Stein, Gender, Isolation”–rethinking Gertrude Stein

Simolke, Duane. “New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio: Stein, Gender, Isolation”, toExcel, 1999.

Rethinking Gertrude Stein

Amos Lassen

One of the topics that interested me greatly when I was in graduate school was Gertrude Stein and the theories of gender that we associated with her writings. I was mad for Gertrude Stein and my library of first editions of most of her work are somewhere that Katrina took them. Frankly I have been so busy that I have not thought about Stein for a while. In the process of reviewing I cane across Duane Simolke and it emails with him, I discovered that he had researched Stein and had published a book about his research. He was kind enough to send it to me.

His approach to Stein differed from mine but we both discovered some commonalities in reference to gender. Simolke’s book deals primarily with the relationship between Stein and Sherwood Anderson and his analysis of “Winesburg, Ohio” relates to Stein and gender roles and gay subtext among other themes. “Winesburg, Ohio” was published in 1919and deal with the industrialization of the small town and how it affected the lives of the people. He shows the influence Stein had on Anderson’s writing as well. We learn the motivation for the writing of the book as well of the homoeroticism of his other works. He gives us, basically, an outline for the writing of a short story.

Simolke brings fresh outlooks on the works he writes about. And as he explores the sexual subtext of Anderson’s writings, some of you may be surprised at what he found. Within the sexual subtexts, there is no writing about sex per se but rather with human contact.

The book is refreshing, interesting and educating. I have always loved books that take on established works of literature and look at them with a new and different slant. As I read “Winesburg” the novel. I was amazed at how much I have missed.  Its relevance is especially important today when we hear about the way immigrant workers are treated and we may compare that a bit to the way industrialism overtook America and changed the way we did everything. It is also interesting to note that this industrial takeover has been overtaken, itself, by the technological revolution, which owes a great debt to the industrial takeover which preceded it.

Perhaps I have scared some of you by going off on a literary tangent. That was not my intention. Rather, I think the importance of gender roles is so pervasive today that it would do us all a great deal of good to see how it has been treated historically. It’s an easy book to read, clear and concise and it opens your eyes to a new way of thinking.

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