Stein's Self and the Search for Meaning in Criticism of Tender Buttons
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Since its publication in 1914, readings of Tender Buttons have often found their interpretive anchor in the person of Gertrude Stein. Due in part to Stein’s enigmatic aura and self-created status as celebrity and genius, readings of the poem often conflate Stein with her work, using elements of her life to explain the inexplicable. My project examines this tendency by constructing a condensed critical history that focuses on the earliest responses to the work as well as recent and contemporary criticism. I question the efficacy of these readings, and in hopes of developing new approaches, I end my project by examining Stein’s own writings about writing and interacting with Tender Buttons. By suggesting new strategies and evaluating previous strategies, my project aims to encourage new ways of reading Tender Buttons that are less dependent on its authorial aura and can perhaps even lead to a more approachable, pleasurable reading experience.