This essay evaluates how American expatriate modernist projects were structured by ideas about commerce and consumerism prominent in the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century. The study describes how Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) and Sylvia Beach's memoir Shakespeare and Company (1956) use ideas about consumer capitalism espoused by U.S. consumer elites (policy makers, industrialists, and public relations professionals) to construe their authors as American modernists. In these two texts, Stein and Beach regard consumption as productive, elevate entrepreneurship to an avant-garde activity, and consider modernist audiences a cultivated subset of a standardized mass market. The risk, resistance, and marginality that Stein and Beach believed distinguished their endeavors were derived from the rationales of U.S. capitalism, even as mass-market consumerism and corporate culture were the counterpoints against which both writers articulated their modernist values. Furthermore, each text figures its author as an American modernist via a nationalized economic imaginary that emphasizes progress, risk, and perseverance as distinguishing national features. The essays considers Stein and Beach alongside a stateside American modernist, journal editor Margaret Anderson (whose memoir My Thirty Years' War  is engaged with the business of modernism but does not nationalize commercial values) to establish that these expatriate modernists remained tied to the nation they left behind through the economic ideas that shaped their ideas about modernism.
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Alissa Karl; Modernism's Risky Business: Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, and American Consumer Capitalism. American Literature 1 March 2008; 80 (1): 83–109. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2007-063
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