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‘A text in process’: The Progressive Aspect in Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans

Keywords: Tense , Progressive Aspect , Continuous Aspect , Literary language , Modernist language , Gertrude Stein , History , American Literature , The Making of Americans

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Abstract:

This project examines the rhetorical implications of tense and aspect in Gertrude Stein's 1925 ‘anti-novel’, the notoriously difficult and aesthetically experimental The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family's Progress. I pay specific attention to the way in which Stein employs the progressive aspect (to be + an -ing verb form) in order to maintain a consistent focus on a dynamic present moment. This technique, I argue, functions ideologically to critique the notion of history as sequential narrative, conventionally represented through the use of teleological timelines. At the level of syntax, The Making of Americans complicates the process of tracing history through inherited norms by disrupting our ability to link moments in a causal chain, thereby developing what I suggest is a type of ‘cubist grammar’.

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