Unfortunately updates to this blog for the foreseeable future will (likely) be few and far between. But it’s for a good reason: work on my thesis has resumed!
It’s been slow going, and progress occurs more on some days than others, but I’ve been working hard to develop daily writing habits that finally seem to be paying off (key to this has been joining an online academic writing group, which I should write about here). And overall it has just felt great to note the expanding page count of an initial chapter draft. Also exciting is that a trip to do archival research is going to happen sometime next spring.
In the meantime, just wanted to note that I have posted another paper up on my academia.edu account. I’ve always been proud of this particular piece of scholarship, which was initially written for a seminar on American autobiographical writing, and then was slightly revised for submission to my graduate program’s annual peer-reviewed published journal.
The paper focuses on several texts by Samuel M. Steward (particularly the 1984 novel Parisian Lives, the sociological study Understanding the Male Hustler, and the memoir Chapters from an Autobiography) and attempts to grapple with a number of thorny issues, including the nature of autobiography, what happens when autobiography is fictionalized, and the historical necessity for queer individuals to employ pseudonyms and falsify specific details regarding their identity even when dealing with life writing. And all of these issues become particularly fascinating within the context of Steward’s intentionally unorthodox oeuvre.
I finally got around to posting a sample of my academic work over at Academia.edu. The paper is “I Like Detectiving Almost as Much as Writing:” Detectives Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in the Work of Samuel M. Steward,” a very well-received conference paper I presented during “The Other Detective II” panel at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) conference in San Diego, November 1, 2013.
The paper was a response to a short passage in Justin Spring’s magisterial biography Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo, and Sexual Renegade (2010):
“At the suggestion of Michael Denneny, a pioneering gay editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York, Steward then set to work on a series of mystery novels featuring Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas as sleuths. The writing of these light entertainments would take up the final years of Steward’s life, with Murder is Murder is Murder published in 1985 and The Caravaggio Shawl in 1989, but they were disappointing works of fiction, weakly plotted and of little value even to those interested in the lives of Stein and Toklas” (397).
I read both of these novels and found them quite delightful, and was rather stunned by Spring’s complete dismissal of their value. This was my attempt to understand what I found so interesting, compelling–and ultimately quite resonant–about these so-called “disappointing works of fiction.”
The paper can be found here, and my Academia.edu profile here.
Sir Francis Cyril Rose was a titled British painter that Gertrude Stein patronized throughout the 1930’s, but despite her best efforts she was never able to generate much sustained interest in his work and he remains an obscure figure of the era.
And while Rose is certainly no Picasso or even a Matisse, there’s a quality to his art that more immediately compels than the work of either of those more famous artists. I particularly like how he is able to evoke a sense of comfortable queer domesticity at 27 rue de Fleurus, with as much emphasis on Toklas and their beloved dogs as on her famous modern art collection. The Stein glimpsed here is certainly a far cry from, say, the imperious sibyl immortalized by Picasso some twenty years before.
I did a fair amount of research on Rose several years ago in conjunction with a paper I wrote on Samuel M. Steward, and truly, there are aspects of Rose’s life that are stranger than fiction. I’ll have to write up some more information on this curious figure sooner than later.
TOP: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (1939)
Sir Francis Cyril Rose
Tempera and gouache on cardboard National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
BOTTOM: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (1939) Sir Francis Cyril Rose Gouache on paper National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution