Estranging Narration in The Making of Americans
Chapter 4 considers the solely-metaphorical presence of Jews in the final text of The Making of Americans. Paralleling the evolution found in Stein’s notebooks, the novel’s narrator largely abandons storytelling in lieu of character study. Stein replaces the Jewish and Anglo-Saxon character types from the notebooks with a purely behavioral nomenclature and, as a result, the published volume contains no explicit references to Jews. The narrator nonetheless maintains a focus on a categorically Jewish and modern type: the pariah. He introduces several pariah figures, from servant girls and parvenus to avant-garde writers, who join him in a fraternity of what he calls “Brother Singulars.” With an eye to Hannah Arendt’s notion of the modern Jewish visionary or “conscious pariah,” the chapter argues that Stein’s narrator, with the characterological “plot” he is writing for himself and strangers, estranges narration by increasingly abstracting his characterology with indefinite pronouns as the novel progresses. Amidst the formal experimentation of ever-increasing repetition and abstraction, the narrator’s Jewish pariahs recede into textual indistinguishability while still differentiating themselves from others. Through this association, Stein sets the agenda for ethical authorship in the modern era.
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