I co-organized and presented on a panel, “Gender and Genre Shifts in American Jewish Culture,” at the Association for Jewish Studies’ annual conference in San Diego, December 14-17, 2019. My paper Against Interpretation: Gertrude Stein's Feminist Poetics considered the possibilities opened up by the surface of poetry, which I define broadly as the manifest content of a poem, its aural and visual qualities, the texture and shape of its language.
Through close readings of Gertrude Stein’s 40-page, 1927 poem “Patriarchal Poetry,” I showed how Stein espouses a surface poetics that meaningfully resists interpretation, which aims to narrow down and reduce a text to a particular meaning. Instead, as I demonstrate, Stein’s poetry engenders a reading characterized by expansive circling and a lingering on the surface that opens up the field of possible meanings (semantic and otherwise). I argue that Stein’s surface poetics, which is bound up with her identity as a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew, enacts a profoundly political gesture of resistance to prevailing norms and forms of “patriarchal poetry.”