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The Making of Americans in Paris

The Autobiographies of Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein

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Noel Sloboda

While living in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century, expatriate American writers Edith Wharton (1862-1937) and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) never crossed paths. Even so, they did rub shoulders in print, in autobiographical essays published by The Atlantic Monthly in 1933. Noel Sloboda shows that the authors pursued many of the same professional goals in these essays and in the book-length life writings that grew out of them, A Backward Glance (1934) and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). By analyzing the personal and cultural contexts in which these works were produced, as well as subjects common to both of them, Sloboda illuminates a previously unrecognized solidarity between Wharton and Stein. The relationship between the authors is built upon careful analysis of A Backward Glance and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and it is framed by a consideration of the markets into which their life writings were first released. The alignment of Wharton and Stein as life writers will be of interest to those studying autobiography, modern literature, and American women writers.