“Ida did go in-directly everywhere”: the escaping pervasion of space

Marina Morbiducci


Ida did not go directly anywhere. She went all around the world. It did not take her long and everything she saw interested her . 1(639)

Paraphrasing the title of Sean P. Murphy's seminal essay, “‘Ida did not go directly anywhere': Symbolic Peregrinations, Desire, and Linearity in Gertrude Stein's Ida ,” 2 in its turn derived from Ida. A Novel (1940), I mean to raise the question whether Stein's ultimative heroine Ida can be viewed not only as the genius of T/time — which I've tried to prove elsewhere — but also of space. This occurs exactly by virtue of that peculiar handling of the temporal dimension within the novel which makes both coordinates — time and space — reach an ontological incidence.

Let's consider Ida ' s shocking incipience:

There was a baby born named Ida. Its mother held it with her hands to keep Ida from being born but when the time came Ida came. And as Ida came, with her came her twin, so there was Ida-Ida. (611)3
So Ida was born and a very little while after her parents went off on a trip and never came back. That was the first funny thing that happened to Ida.
The days were long and there was nothing to do.
She saw the moon and she saw the sun and she saw the grass and she saw the streets.
The first time she saw anything it frightened her.
Wherever she was she always liked to change places. (611)

Even as a novel, delivered with a struggle, after a very long gestation, partially anticipated by significant fictional figures and narrative antecedents, Ida is no doubt the summa of Stein's imaginative and stylistic power. Even more: Ida is Stein par excellence , not simply because of its autobiographical references (according to Donald Sutherland, “Ida is a sort of combination of Helen of Troy, Dulcinea, Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor, and in particular ‘Gertrude Stein'” 4), but particularly for the full-circle embodiment of Stein's qualifying poetics. Characterized by a prototypal ubiquity, reckless wandering and multiple existences, being one, two and three simultaneously (Ida, Ida-Ida, Ida-Ida-Winnie), always renewing with ever changing partners (and dogs), Ida projects us into the unconfined space of the potentiality of being, but also right into the core (“cuore”?) of Stein's compositional spiral.

If it is hardly arguable that the “hinge insideness of time” — as I find it functional to name that generative force producing a unique temporal texture inside the novel — provides the major vantage point for the interpretation of Ida , no less crucial is its connotation of space. As she does with time, Ida sweeps space, embracing, intersecting and conjoining with it, blurring all boundaries and expanding any limits, stretching earth and sky in every direction — vertically, horizontally, diagonally — making distant places wonderfully overlap or coincide in the extra-ordinary simultaneity of her demiurgic experience. Like a god, her will pervades the cosmos, which she rules from both inside and outside the world, sometimes even beyond the atmosphere, giving her story a starry quality.

According to Murphy, Ida is a character that

flagrantly rejects time and exists within the “continuous present”: “One day did not come after another day to Ida. Ida never took on tomorrow, she did not take on months either not did she take on years” (135). By declining to “take on” months and years, Ida disavows temporal linguistic features such as sentences, syntax, and so forth. Without temporality, Ida's oppositional discourse becomes “spatial” and therefore frustrates the readerly desire for linearity, order, and sense. 5

Without entering the debate whether there is in Ida an intensification of the temporal dimension (through repetitions, chronological jumps, simultaneity of action, disrespect of any temporal law, and so on), rather than a form of anti-temporality (which Murphy seems to envisage in Stein's narratological procedures), I would like to suggest that here time is so thoroughly plastically manipulated to become almost a spatial matter. The “spatial” discourse of Ida takes over the traditionally-meant temporal ground of the narrative, according to Murphy. But even on a merely referential level, Ida invades the entire space surrounding her, with her ceaseless peregrinations, abrupt shifts, improbable jumps, abductions, sudden arrivals and unmotivated departures: “Ida liked to change places”; “Once very often every day Ida went away” (650); “Ida came in, not to rest, but come in” (657). Quotations like these — implying variations and movement — are interspersed throughout the text:

Ida wanders through the world […] she sees “lots of funny things” […] remarkable appearances and disappearances, alarming reversals of fortune, mysteriously shifting or disguised identities, dramatic abductions, and sensationally violent events […]. 6

And yet, Stein parallels these expressions with as many conveying an urge to rest and stay: “Ida gradually was always there too” (663), “Ida was busy resting” (622) — as her ultimate goal is permanence, immobility and stasis. Like a Buddha (how could one not think of Jo Davidson's sculpture!), like the unmovable sun revolving around its axis, even when she moves Ida is fixed. That is, without going she varies location, as if the whole space were permeated by her intrinsic immanence. Sometimes, on the contrary, in the story it is said that Ida acts as if she were not living “there”, showing herself alienated from the tangible place she is in (in a sort of split consciousness):

Ida saw herself come, then she saw a man come, then she saw a man go away, then she saw herself go away. (628)

In any case, she is always ready to go “somewhere else”:

Reconciling her desire to wander and her need to rest, Ida wanders among possibilities that remain open, nomadizing in order to stay in the same place, the place where she is always just Ida. Ida is restless and needs to rest; she changes locations unpredictably and reappears unexpectedly; she marries, wanders away from marriage, remarries, and wanders while she is married. Within the logic of this text, all possibilities may potentially be present simultaneously […] Stein refuses to fix Ida ( Ida ) […] affirming instead the superior value of narrative indeterminacy. 7

Among multifaceted critical contributions on the novel (from Thornton Wilder to W.H. Auden, from M.J. Hoffmann to Harriet Chessman, from N. Schmitz to M. Camboni, just to quote a few; great attention has always been devoted to this intriguing text), I am attracted by recent readings such as Ellen E. Berry's Curved Thought and Textual Wandering: Gertrude Stein's Postmodernism (1992), and Claudia Franken's Gertrude Stein. Writer and Thinker (2000), whose final chapters — respectively titled “Postmodern Melodrama and Simulational Aesthetics in Ida ” , and “Specious Fissions, or, Nature Demethodized: The Offices of Origin; Ida and Andrew: Dissoluble Allegories” — offer original points of discussion for the understanding of Ida. Together with Murphy's essay (mentioned above), these three studies have been germinal for my hypothesis.

Whatever the critical perspective, indubitably Ida

does contain features common to realist texts (especially in comparison to other of Stein's works): a main character (of sorts), a story (of sorts), settings (many of them). Rather than viewing it as her return to realism, however, the novel might more accurately be seen as a miming of mimesis […]. 8

In an age of mechanical reproduction the copy has become indistinguishable from the original and is in fact more “real” than the real. 9

The real becomes “hyperreal” (Berry, 167), giving way to an “hallucinatory resemblance of the real with itself”, as Jean Baudrillard points out and Berry reports. (167)

The separate layers of experience brought about by what hyperrealism, reproducibility and hallucination all imply, mean, for our discourse of “space,” a different, expanded and multiplied “place” to consist of and be in. Even geographically, Ida roams through space, from State to State, from town to hill, from house to house, nonchalantly mapping with her presence the whole American soil: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, California, using any means of transportation: “She went away on a train in an automobile by airplane and walking.” (636)

There are passages in Ida where she crosses not only the land, but even the sky, appearing and disappearing, at her own will, like a comet (and Winnie, the third version of her identity, is, indeed, a “star”):

One day, she saw a star it was an uncommonly large one and when it set it made a cross, she looked and looked and she did not hear Andrew take a walk and that was natural enough she was not there. They had lost her. Ida was gone […] she came back to life exactly the day before yesterday. (674)

Ida enters and exits the human space, and the ultraterrene infinitude as well. Her dimension is magic, cosmic, ancestral, archetypal. Hypnotized by a star, she follows it, goes, [dies], and comes back to life when she wants (but actually it is said, a few pages on, that “her life never began because it was always there” 679). This wouldn't be perplexing if Ida were a fairy-tale, a folk legend, or even a surreal text. But the reference to the temporal measurement “exactly the day before yesterday” — among other aspects in the whole novel that cannot be treated here — pulls us down to earth, throwing us back in a realistic circumscribedness; so we wonder (wander?).

Evidently, many issues are raised by this complex text. Firstly, readers are captivated by vivid debate on its attribution to a precise genre (novel, romance, melodrama, autobiography, fairy-tale, farce, bildungsroman, picaresque, pantomime, pastiche of genres, sit-com, etc.). Ida is woven of fragmentation and built of pieces, modular blocks, reiterative structures, repetitive devices; these single parts, combined in different juxtapositions, are held together primarily by the determined (but vague as to the precise object) “will-to-power” of the heroine. Secondly, we are required to face and disentangle its problematical narrative framework; anti-canonical and anti-patriarchal tout court . Needless to say, without a massive and in-depth deconstruction of traditional narratological standpoints based on plot, action, character and so on, we wouldn't be able to make any sense of its “textual wandering.” Thirdly, we are met by the puzzling — but perhaps pointless — dilemma of the collocations of its theorical stance: modernist, postmodernist, deconstructive, feminist, hybrid, gender-oriented? Whatever the option, Ida strikingly epitomizes all Steinian thought. Together with The Geographical History of America , Ida represents, dare I say, the densest Steinian philisophical predicament.

1 “Ida never said once upon a time”: the escaping fabula

Once upon a time there was a meadow […]
Once upon a time every time Ida lived in a city […]
Once upon a time Ida stood all alone in the twilight. (644)

 Once upon a time all who had anywhere to go did not go. This is what they did. (644-5)

 Ida never said once upon a time. These words did not mean anything to Ida. (689) 

More than impossible, it is useless to summarize Ida 's fabula : it goes against its free nature; there's no linear progression, no hierarchical organization, no teleological purpose (“In composition one thing was as important as another thing. Each part as important as the whole”, Stein clarifies in the Transatlantic Interview ). Stein's narrative in Ida is idiosyncratic as ever, and in order to understand, or even simply stand her text, we must reexperience its compositional process. This is the “funny thing” — using Ida's wording, “funny thing” is a euphemistic formula, repeated several times in the novel, really meaning “extra-ordinary” — that Stein requires from us to make us share her dearest creature.

It is instead viable to identify some of her leading thematic paths: one of these is — by no means a pun — identity (Ida/entity?). Reviewing its genesis, I will try to show how it comes to shape, and eventually how it intertwines with the issue of space.

2 “ And so from the beginning and there was no end there was Ida.” :
the ge(r)mination/s of Ida

The first draft of Ida. A Novel. takes place in 1937, with the short story “Ida”, and Stein refers to its texture as a sort of “puzzle.” 10

We know that Ida 

came into being after long efforts to lend it a satisfying shape. Many elements from earlier works found their way into the much rewritten, episodic “Great American Novel,” as Stein liked to call the project she wrote on the drafts. 11

In 1937, also,

as she was planning the novel that was to become Ida , Stein commented: “I want to write about the effect on people of the Hollywood cinema kind of publicity that takes away all identity.” 12

It is interesting to note, as Franken points out, an anticipation of the thematic and compositional strategies used for Ida in some previous Steinian pieces inserted in R. B. Haas' collection How Writing Is Written (1974): namely “American Newspapers,” “I Came and Here I Am” and “The Superstitions of Fred Anneday, Annday, Anday: A Novel of Real Life.” Franken views Ida as “the story of its story: the development of the motif of alternate selves and the theme of duality in Stein's work up to this last novel.” (Franken, 319)

In 1938, Stein writes the short story titled “Ida”, further published in the anthology Boudoir Companion .13 In this version of the story the character of Ida is already “one of two” and “sometimes she went out as one and sometimes she went out as the other” (35) — thus anticipating the twin theme. Here Stein also states that “Everybody is an Ida”, then adding: “And so from the beginning and there was no end there was Ida.” (37) 14 Ida represents the beginning of time (“from the beginning”) and does not contemplate an end (“there was no end”, “there was Ida”): if Ida is “always”, she is also “everywhere”, immanent, onnipresent, unconfinable. The twinning principle may hint, as Arnold Weinstein has held, at the writer's capacity “to make his own version of genesis.” (1993:83) 15

There had been previous Idas in Stein's fiction; for instance, in

A Novel of Thank you , Useful Knowledge and Lucy Church Amiably , where the speaker confesses to have “preferred” this name to others ( LCA 77). 16  Figures with this name travel through Stein's works, until Ida, who resists any imposed stereotyping in her insistence on being one of two, turned into the protagonist of Stein's last novel. 17

Considering Stein's predilection for saints of all kinds, Franken does not exclude the possibility that there might be in Ida a reference to Saint Ida de Boulogne; who, according to the legend, shows women the path to happiness. (Franken, 327)

But the great fictional antecedent of Ida is, naturally, Melanctha. In her book Reading Gertrude Stein. Body, Text, Gnosis (1990), Lisa Ruddick approaches Melanctha in terms of a “mind wandering” creature. Berry in turn compares the two characters, suggesting that for the first heroine restlessness is the cause of her failure, consumption and death; whereas for Ida it becomes a key to success and fulfilment. Ida indeed “wanders among possibilities that remain open.” (Franken, 155)

Liberated from ties of the realistic or psychological novel, Stein makes Ida wander, and her peregrinations make Ida rule and control the entire human, even cosmic, space.

If we concentrate on Ida ' s major theme — her duality-splitness, and, conversely, uniqueness-wholeness, oppositions — we actually see how even

The Making of Americans and the piece “Many Many Women” ( MPG ) testify to Stein's fascination at the ambiguity with which the word one could be treated. It led her to explore the possible antitheses of ‘one' and the amorphous ‘many,' of “one and any one.” She analysed the distinctions between various kinds of unity and plurality. 18

We know that in The Making of Americans Stein strove for realization of the unity of the “being one existing”, in conjunction with the concept of “brother singular”; which is exactly what the components of both families fail to achieve. According to Franken however,

[t]he first evidence of her interest in interpreting the divided self as twinned-ness turns up in Stein's notebooks, which testify to her intention to integrate into The Making of Americans a story on “busted [?] twins.” 19

Going further back in Stein's literary career, we also find in Helen of Q.E.D. (the first novel written by Stein and published posthumously) a tendency to think of herself in terms of someone else, particularly when she tells her husband that her mother would have preferred that her lost brother and sister had survived, rather than herself.

But actually

[t]he divided self had also been discussed in Stein's and Mendez Solomon's article on “Normal Motor Automatism.” Later, Stein provided a re-interpretation of the psychological form of event behind this “most interesting phenomenon known as a double personality” (1896: 492) 20 as it could occur, against the thesis that it was observable only in psycho-pathological cases, in any normal test-person. [Stein's] essay on “Cultivated Motor Automatism” c21 discusses a split within the individual that became observable with various types of alternation between conscious and automatic responses in the process of writing. […] The conception of the heterogeneous personality […] the disintegration of the self […] subliminal or subconscious phenomena, psychic disaggregation and split-off selves […] which all were subjects of the psychology of her day, but also Stein's own findings […] had a marked influence on her developing writing. 22

By thus approaching the matter of its genesis, we slide into Ida ' s most peculiar theme.

3 Ida/entity: the strive for wholeness by way of duality

 Oh dear oh dear Love, that was her dog, if I had a twin well nobody would know which one I was and which one she was and so if anything happened nobody could tell anything and lots of things are going to happen and oh Love I felt it yes I know it I have a twin. (613)

 Yes Love […] I am tired of being just one […] yes I am going to have a twin. You know Love I am like that when I have to have it I have to have it. And I have to have a twin, yes Love. (613)

 [H]ere I am all alone and I am thinking of you Ida my dear twin. Are you beautiful as beautiful as I am dear twin Ida, are you, and if you are perhaps I am not. I can not go away Ida, I am here always, if not here then somewhere […] but you dear Ida you are not […]. Dear Ida oh dear Ida do do be one. Do not let them know you have any name but Ida and I know Ida will win, Ida Ida Ida,

From your twin
Ida (618)

As we previously saw in the incipience, Ida is born with a twin, but the twin soon dies. Ida, escaping from her mother's hold (the first statement of her will to go?), starts living. But she always longs for her double, feeling her absence; besides that, she wants an alternative to herself; so she re-creates her double, Ida-Ida:

Ida's ‘invention' may suggest that she seeks a way to express contradictory desires in her nature (the desire to stay and go) or to reconcile a split between public and private selves. The twin might be seen as her alter ego, her unconscious or her unactualized potential. 23

The role of this twin is uncertain: is it an “hypostasized self”, a “twinned personality of Ida”, or a simple “sister”?

Does Ida-Ida represent the way we come to know ourselves through feelings of sameness, or does Ida-Ida represent Ida's as a function of her human ability to associate resemblances? The twin's name resists such interpretation — it combines resemblance and difference. 24

Whichever interpretation we opt for, certainly resorting to a “double” and its “struggle for oneness”, to put it in Franken's words again,

was tempting for Stein, because it contrasted effectfully with the continuity brought about by the fine gradations of her style. Arnold Weinstein […] has noted that […] [t]he “replica erodes the lines of identification and closure,” so that “the world of twins” is one in which it “is hard to see clear.” (1993:67) 25

If duplication may on one hand question psychological identity, it reinforces on the other the spatial presence of the single one. The principle of twinness guarantees a double occupation of space — which becomes a real invasion when the twin couple Ida-Ida adds up to Winnie, the third (successful=winning) persona :

The identity or existence of Ida's “twin,” Winnie, is similarly unstable or uncertain. The opening of the novel suggests that Ida is born “one of two,” however later Ida states that she invents her twin […]. [Besides], is Winnie actual (i.e., depicted at the same narrative level as Ida herself), but absent? a figment of Ida's imagination (imaginatively present?) or simply an effect of the drama of signification? 26

We might see the role played by Winnie as Stein's reaction to and ridiculing of the popularity and success reached through beauty in the star system of Hollywood:

Ida creates Winnie in order to possess a self which “everybody knows.” Winnie seems to be Ida's invention, but actually others create her identity. She assumes the seemingly timeless existence of the star […] yet Winnie is dependent on the assent, ideas and lives of others. A man wants to know Winnie's address to be able to catch her […] Ida does not permit him to enter the door. She does not veil the fact that Winnie does not exist. Winnie represents the need for social identity, for ‘being one,' but Ida, who, unlike Dr. Jekyll, does not allow her other self to get entirely away from her, recognizes that the two incarnations in which she has come to live are related to quite different realms. 27

Furthermore, Winnie, that is,

Ida enacts the aesthetic consequences of Stein's recognition that identity itself may be simulated in an age of mechanical reproduction. 28

So we can say that Ida faces the problem of “being one existing”, by proposing the identity of her heroine reiterated ad libitum in her plurality of existences; both synchronically (in the compresence of Ida, Ida-Ida, Ida=Winnie, three separate and different persons but always the same, a real trinity), and diachronically (Ida always changes place, home, partner, dog, remaining the “same” though changing, because the “same” Ida is someone who says “I change all the time”. Ida is

divided and doubled, legible and incomprehensible, innocent and demoniac at once. Alternating between herself and her twin, she also alternated between restlessness and stasis. 29

Incorporating the very principle of creation, by way of ceaseless self-geminations and substitutions, she realizes “the creativity of the universe into its own completeness,” as A.N. Whitehead writes. 30 

4 “Ida liked to change places”: transience and permanence, the pervasion of space

 Once upon a time way back there were always gates gates that opened so that you could go into and then little by little there were no fences no walls anywhere. (626)

One day, it was summer, she was in another place and she saw a lot of people under the trees and she went too [...]. Ida stayed as long as she could and then she went away. She always stayed as long as she could. (617-8)

There was a good deal of space to fill with Ida. (613).

As we have seen,

Ida “liked to change places” and never knew “what the next new address was” (14) — though she always ‘addresses' ‘someone' or ‘something,' she flees from us in the same way as she initially escaped her mother's hold. Ida withstands any attempt to fix her. 31

Her peregrinations are endless and she continuously escapes; while she is wandering she simultaneously longs for resting. The two equally urging impulses alternatively prevail; that is why she needs an alter-ego, and sometimes even a third possibility. Attributing herself/herselves the quality of moving beyond any physical restrictions, Ida conquers a sort of ubiquity with which she seems to solve the question of spatial difference and distance. Being ubiquitous she ends up being omnipresent, therefore embodying the beginning-and-end principle of space. Ultimately, Ida aims at becoming the emblem if not of infinitude, at least of the spatial continuum .

With Ida , the narrative horizon always stretches to unpredictable (however recognizable) “contact zones”: we navigate word by word, each repetition becoming a buoyancy aid, though we are never sure if and when we'll touch the ground. Ida “shimmers before us like a mirage that dissolves as one approaches.”32

As well as duplicating herself, Ida is able to disappear and reappear at her own will:

At one point in Ida , with typical Steinian ambiguity and with an overt lack of antecedents and referents, the narrator comments: “And then they all disappeared, not really disappeared but nobody talked about them any more.” (96)

In this way her story becomes ‘a riddle rather than a narrative, which can flow into statements of mystical profundity: Ida who “lives where she is not.”' 33

And exactly for “turns” in the spatial status like the ones above mentioned, based on paradoxical statements (living where one is not, for instance), Ida extends the physical space to a sort of metaphysical one. But the space of the subconscious is implied also.

5 Ida : the space of dreams

Ida 's space, as a novel, is similar to the space of dreams, as Stein put it:

A novel is what you dream in your night sleep. A novel is not waking thoughts although it is written and thought with waking thoughts. But really a novel goes as dreams go in sleeping at night and some dreams are like anything and some dreams are like something and some dreams change and some dreams are quiet and some are not. And some dreams are just what anyone would do only a little different always just a little different and that is what a novel is. 34

Dreams also typically fuse contradictions and […] proceed by abrupt transformations, changes of episode, spatio-temporal jumps […]. 35

In the novel, Ida has many dreams. Some oneirical elements have a strong symbolical and sexual connotation; throughout the text, dreams mingle with daydreams and fable-like passages. At one point she dreams of white orchids:

Ida and he settled down together and one night she dreamed of a field of orchids, white orchids each on their stalk in a field. Such a pretty girl to have dreamed of white orchids each on his stalk in a field. That is what she dreamed. (638-9)

Later on in the text she openly and consciously declares that “she liked orchids” (692), overlapping the two levels (conscious and unconscious).

Some of her dreams carry in the protagonists the same psychological features of the Ida character (and eventually of Gertrude herself), who acts in the primary level of the story. One example is the playfulness, humour and irony which characterize Ida in her careless attitude towards the usual human worries:

She was sitting and she dreamed that Andrew was a soldier. She dreamed well not dreamed but just dreamed. The day had been set for their marriage and everything had been ordered. Ida was always careful about ordering, food clothes cars, clothes food cars everything was well chosen and the day was chosen and the day was set and then the telephone rang and it said that Andrew was dying, and Ida knew that the food would do for the people who came to the funeral and the car would do to go to the funeral and the clothes would not do dear me no they would not do and all of this was just dreaming […]. (676)

Interestingly, even inside the dimension of dreams — where one can be anywhere in terms of space for their very irrational texture — Ida escapes from her place and fantasizes about being somewhere else:

She dreamed that clothes were like Spanish ice-cream. She did not know why she dreamed of Spain. She was married in Washington, there was ice-cream there were clothes, but there was no Spain. Spain never came, but ice-cream and clothes clothes and ice-cream, food and clothes, politics, generals and admirals, clothes and food, she was married and she was in Washington. (650)

Being in Washington she projects her desire to be in Spain (we do know how much Stein loved this country), coupling the pleasure of ice-cream with it.

At other times, she nurtures the idea of a sort of “eternal return”: “Ida instead of going on the way she was going went back the way she had come.” (617)

But, in the end, her ultimate goal — like Stein's — is to ensure her permanence in space by asserting her identity in being:

Would you never rather be Ida, they said, never rather be Ida, she laughed, never, they said never rather be Ida.

Of course not, of course she would always rather be Ida and she was. (643)


Works Cited

Berry, Ellen E. Curved Thought and Textual Wandering: Gertrude Stein's Postmodernism . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.

Franken, Claudia. Gertrude Stein, Writer and Thinker , Hallenser Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik . 7, Münster, Hamburg, London: Lit Verlag, 2000.

Murphy, Sean P. “‘Ida did not go directly anywhere': Symbolic Peregrinations, Desire, and Linearity in Gertrude Stein's Ida ”. Literature and Psychology. (Spring-Summer 2001): 1-9.

Ruddick, Lisa. Reading Gertrude Stein. Body, Text, Gnosis. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Stein, Gertrude. “American Newspapers”. How Writing Is Written. Vol. 2 of the Previously Uncollected Works of Gertrude Stein . (Ed. Robert Bartlett Haas). Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974.

--- “A Transatlantic Interview” (1946). Gertrude Stein: What Are Masterpieces. New York, Toronto, London, Tel Aviv: Pitman, 1970.

--- “Cultivated Motor Automatism: A Study of Character in Its Relation to Attention”. Psychological Review . 5:3 (May 1898):295-306.

--- How Writing Is Written . Vol. 2 of the Previously Uncollected Works of Gertrude Stein . (Ed. Robert Bartlett Haas). Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974.

--- “Ida”. The Boudoir Companion. Frivolous, Sometimes Venomous Thoughts on Men, Morals and Other Women . (Ed. Page Cooper). New York, Toronto: Farrar & Rinehardt, 1938.

--- Ida. A Novel. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1932-1946 . (Eds. C. Stimpson e H. Chessman). New York: The Library of America, Literary Classics of the United States, 1998.

Sutherland, Donald. Gertrude Stein. A Biography of Her Work . (1951). New Haven (Conn).: Yale University Press, 1971.

Weinstein, Arnold. Nobody's Home. Speech, Self, and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo . New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Whitehead, A. N. Religion in the Making . (1926). New York and Scarborough, Ontario: Meridian-New American Library, 1974


1. Gertrude Stein, Ida. A Novel. in Gertrude Stein, Writings 1932-1946 . Eds. C. Stimpson and H. Chessman. New York: The Library of America, Literary Classics of the United States. 1998. The number in brackets indicates the page.

2. Sean P. Murphy, “‘Ida did not go directly anywhere': Symbolic Peregrinations, Desire, and Linearity in Gertrude Stein's Ida ”. Literature and Psychology. (Spring-Summer 2001): 1-9. This title is, on its turn, a quotation from Ida. The essay suggests, among other sharp critical remarks, a Lacanian reading of the Steinian novel.

3. I am intrigued by the remarks Claudia Franken makes on this incipience: “This beginning is disturbing. Ida's getting born seems due to an interplay of forces, to movement and counter-movement. Between life and time, there appear the mother's hands which intervene. The inverse movements of womb and hand may recall that every human being is protectively kept ‘from being born' in a motherly womb. Yet there is and aspect of violence […]. Impulses toward death and life are holding and withholding the baby. We may intuit that the completeness this scene evokes must vanish: the mother will not hold the baby by her side. Ida embraces alternatives of being divided and doubled by a twin.[…] The realm of the mother, the natural one, and that of language are twinned (same and different, associated and dissociated) from the beginning. Language, working through repetition, supersedes nature with its primal fracture, and with the name comes a — perhaps delusive — impression of the repeatability of the same.” (C. Franken, Gertrude Stein. Writer and Thinker , Hallenser Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik . 7, Münster, Hamburg, London: Lit Verlag, 2000, 342).

4. D. Sutherland, Gertrude Stein. A Biography of Her Work . (1951). New Haven (Conn).: Yale University Press, 1971. p. 99.

5. Murphy, 3.

6. Berry, 160.

7. Berry, 155.

8. Berry, 156.

9. Ibid.

10.Gertrude Stein, “Ida”, 1938. There is a difference between Ida. A Novel (1941) and “Ida” the short story (1938).

11. Franken, 319.

12. Berry, 165. The quotation is from R. Bridgman, Gertrude Stein in Pieces (New York: Oxford UP, 1970), 306.

13.The Boudoir Companion. Frivolous, Sometimes Venomous Thoughts on Men, Morals and Other Women . Ed. Page Cooper. NY, Toronto: Farrar & Rinehardt, 1938. Quot. by Franken, 336.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Franken refers to the 1930 edition of Lucy Church Amiably , reprinted in 1985 (New York: Something Else Press).

17. Franken, 331.

18. Franken, 321.

19. Franken, 326.

20. Gertrude Stein, together with Leon Mendez Solomons, published two experimental studies while she was a student of Psychology at Harvard: “Normal Motor Automatism” Psychological Review 3.5 (Sept. 1896): 492-512, and “Cultivated Motor Automatism: A Study of Character in Its Relation to Attention.” Psychological Review 5.3 (May 1898):295-306.

21. Gertrude Stein, “Cultivated Motor Automatism: A Study of Character in Its Relation to Attention.” Psychological Review 5.3 (May 1898):295-306.

22. Franken, 325.

23. Berry, 164.

24. Franken, 342.

25. See A. Weinstein, Nobody's Home. Speech, Self, and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo , New York, Oxford: OUP, 1993. Quoted by Franken, 327.

26. Berry, 164.

27. Franken, 353.

28. Berry, 160.

29. Franken, 349.

30. A. N. Whitehead, Religion in the Making , (1926). New York and Scarborough, Ontario: Meridian-New American Library, 1974, 116. Quoted by Franken, 321.

31. Franken, 349. The edition quoted by Franken is published by Vintage (1972).

32. Anna Gibbs, “Hélène Cixous and GS: New Directions in Feminist Criticism.” Meanjin 38 (1979): 287.

33. Franken, 366.

34. Gertrude Stein, “The Superstitions of Fred Anneday, Annday, Anday: A Novel of Real Life”, in How Writing Is Written , 25.

35. Berry, 162.

BIO: Marina Morbiducci is a critic and translator of contemporary poetry. She is the Italian translator and editor (with E. G. Lynch) of Tender Buttons (Liberilibri, 1989). She has also edited, with Annalisa Goldoni, an anthology on the Black Mountain Poets and Robert Creeley. She has translated Kathleen Fraser's Etruscan Pages (Cloud Marauder, 2001). Among her recent publications are an essay on Gertrude Stein and the garden (“Having It Having the Being Being There: The Garden in Gertrude Stein/ Gertrude Stein in the Garden” in Riscritture dell'Eden , ed. A. Mariani, Liguori, 2003). In March 2003 she was awarded her PhD for a dissertation on Stein in Tempo (Univ. of Pescara). Her translations and edition of Maltese poet Oliver Friggieri's Haiku are in print. She is presently lecturing at the University of Malta in the Italian Department.

back to Stein index

table of contents