Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and the Biographical Act

By Charles Caramello

292 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5726-7
    Published: February 2012
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6070-0
    Published: November 2000

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Focusing on biographical portraiture, Charles Caramello argues that Henry James and Gertrude Stein performed biographical acts in two senses of the phrase: they wrote biography, but as a cover for autobiography. Constructing literary genealogies while creating original literary forms, they used their biographical portraits of precursors and contemporaries to portray themselves as exemplary modern artists. Caramello advances this argument through close readings of four works that explore themes of artistry and influence and that experiment with forms of biographical portraiture: James's early biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne and his much later group biography, William Wetmore Story and His Friends, and Stein's celebrated Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and her largely forgotten Four in America, which comprises biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Wilbur Wright, Henry James, and George Washington. The first comparative study of these two great expatriate writers, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and the Biographical Act addresses questions of art, influence, and literary culture by analyzing important biographical portraits that themselves address the same questions.

Originally published 1996.

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About the Author

Charles Caramello is professor of English at the University of Maryland.
For more information about Charles Caramello, visit the Author Page.


“An extremely competent, professional, and serious study of two writers with a rich and complex relationship to the writing of their own lives and those of others.”Modern Language Review Yearbook of English Studies

“Clearly one of the strengths of [this book] is the sophistication and clarity with which Caramello identifies the significance of his critical moves. . . . [A] lucid and illuminating book.”--a/b: Auto/Biographical Studies

"Caramello's dual portrait makes a significant contribution to our received images of James. Convincing, thoughtfully composed, dense with local insights yet readable, his study authoritatively catches its subject in the biographical act."--Henry James Review

"Anyone who is interested in James and Stein or the biographical act will find this to be an indispensable study."--English Literature in Transition

"Henry James, Gertrude Stein, and the Biographical Act is an important study, which incorporates new scholarship on James and Stein in a theoretically sophisticated approach to literary experimentation with biography and autobiography in Anglo-American modernism. In his focus on gender issues in James and Stein, Caramello contributes to the revision of modernism in which Stein rightly plays a central role."--John Carlos Rowe, University of California, Irvine