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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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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

“Everybody can persecute anybody”

“Everybody can persecute anybody”

What’s Funny about Jewish Identity in Wars I Have Seen

(p.143) 6 “Everybody can persecute anybody”
Gertrude Stein and the Making of Jewish Modernism

Amy Feinstein

University Press of Florida

Chapter 6 discusses the interpenetration of Stein’s experience as a Jew in Vichy France with the non-Jewish experiences of war and persecution in Europe. In the 1930s, Stein happily deemed the modern era Jewish; by the 1940s, she condemns the current wave of antisemitism as a hateful archaism. In her memoir, Wars I Have Seen, Stein writes as openly about the Jewish question as she had in her college essay a half-century earlier. She criticizes Pétain, Vichy’s head of state, for persecuting Jews, paints Hitler as a monster, and strives to understand the forces that brought such figures to prominence. Though purportedly protected, she recounts being threatened with internment in a concentration camp. Continuing from her earlier wartime novel Mrs. Reynolds, Stein, in the memoir, worries over situations of persecution, imprisonment (recalling Dreyfus), deportation, refugeeism, and resistance, as they afflict the Jews and non-Jews of her acquaintance. At a time when Vichy decrees were sharply demarcating Jewish and French identities, she rebelliously suggests that the persecution to which Jews historically were subject now has become general. By Judaizing the experience of occupation, Stein affirms the specificities of Jewish experiences while imagining the symbolic import of such experiences for gentiles.

Keywords:   Wars I Have Seen, Mrs. Reynolds, Pétain, Hitler, Vichy, Dreyfus, Refugeeism, Deportation, Concentration camp, Resistance

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