As a seminal work of modernism, Stein's Three Lives has often been discussed in the context of Cézanne and cubist painting, but the intertextual relation to Flaubert has rarely been put under scrutiny, even though it is well known that Stein had translated Flaubert's Trois Contes as an exercise, and allusions to this text can be easily traced throughout Three Lives in general and The Good Anna in particular. The following essay argues that Stein's “new kind of realism” (William James) constitutes a rewriting and a radicalization of Flaubert's decomposition of certain key features of realist narration in Un Coeur simple. While Flaubert's narratorial impersonnalité cites and displays the hegemonic bourgeois discourse of his day in his treatment of the servant Félicité, Stein's narrator deals in clearly marked stereotypes in an effort to master the servants; but by mimicking the latter's speech patterns it also reveals the presumptions of social power implicit in the epistemological hierarchy between narrator and character as such. Only when Stein's characteristic device of repetition is analyzed in this vein—as a symptom of the narrator's and the character's habits of parroting clichés, and as an ensuing dehierarchization of narrative structure—can the similarities with Cézanne's painting be fully accounted for.
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ULLA HASELSTEIN; A New Kind of Realism: Flaubert's Trois Contes and Stein's Three Lives. Comparative Literature 1 September 2009; 61 (4): 388–399. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2009-022
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