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The Geopoetics of Modernism$
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Rebecca Walsh

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060514

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060514.001.0001

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(Trans) Nation, Geography, and Genius

(Trans) Nation, Geography, and Genius

Gertrude Stein’s Geographical History of America

(p.96) 4 (Trans) Nation, Geography, and Genius
The Geopoetics of Modernism

Rebecca Walsh

University Press of Florida

This chapter traces the engagements of Gertrude Stein’s multi-generic text The Geographical History of America with the genre of the geographical history associated with Ellen Churchill Semple. The chapter argues that Stein relies upon the American exceptionalist notions that we find in texts like Semple’s American History and Its Geographic Conditions. And yet Stein draws persistent comparisons between America and France and deconstructs the very categories of place and attachment she seems to evoke. The Geographical History thereby manufactures an (anti)comparative nationalism that allows Stein to position a sense of her own American belonging against that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and to simultaneously work toward restoring a more “American” version of America to itself. The chapter argues that Stein’s genius exceeds the categories of geography and concludes by exploring some similarities between Stein’s moves and the development of possibilism within the well-established French academic geography of Paul Vidal de la Blache.

Keywords:   Gertrude Stein, The Geographical History of America, “Geography”, environmental determinism, Ellen Churchill Semple, American History and Its Geographical Conditions, American exceptionalism, France, possibilism, Paul Vidal de la Blache

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