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Gertrude Stein and the Making of Jewish Modernism$
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Amy Feinstein

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780813066318

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813066318.001.0001

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An Israel of the Imagination

An Israel of the Imagination

The Sciences of Race, Matthew Arnold, and Stein’s Modern Jew

(p.20) 1 An Israel of the Imagination
Gertrude Stein and the Making of Jewish Modernism

Amy Feinstein

University Press of Florida

Chapter 1 traces Stein’s writing about empirical and abstract Jewish racialism. It looks at her 1896 essay on intermarriage and the preservation of modern Jewish identity, titled “The Modern Jew Who Has Given Up the Faith of His Fathers Can Reasonably and Consistently Believe in Isolation.” Stein wrote the work at Harvard when she was both a Jewish racialist and an undergraduate scientist. Like many of her generation, Stein took inspiration from Arnold’s critical yet glorified depiction of a Jewish force shaping civilization and the psyche. In his book Culture and Anarchy, Arnold had, in part, developed his ideas from racialist thinkers who often saw intellectual and creative “excesses,” such as genius or virtuosity, as signs of a Jewish mental disease. The infamous Otto Weininger would follow Arnold in this vein. Dissenters to this position included William James, who taught Stein at Harvard. Stein’s participation in Arnoldian and racialist debates over culture and “the Jewish question” resulted in her ethical and aesthetic interest in the experimental practices that would come to characterize literary modernism.

Keywords:   Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, Otto Weininger, William James, racial science, Degeneration, The Jewish Question

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