Stein "doing something standing"

Subject: Re: doing something and standing and composing
To: (Monica Lee)
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 06:23:57 -0400 (EDT)
Precedence: bulk


Let's look at the *types* of sentences Stein uses. In this piece there are
two kinds. Monica implies the two kinds of sentences in her comment.

Monica wrote: "Another person is observing them do X and Y. The viewer of
the _any_one_doing_something_ is adjusting (composing) the scene of
_any_one_doing_something_ to their way of perceiving things in the way
that they perceive things at that moment in their lives (which is effected
by the history of the person, the past experiences of the person.)"

One of the two kinds of sentences Stein wrote in this piece testifies to
the fact that "Some one" is being observed doing something and standing.
The other kind of sentence about doing something and standing is not an
observation (a view, an actual sight, a description of an act) but a
generalization about what generally happens in some circumstance: what
happens generally when any one does something and standing.

The second type is: "Any one doing something and standing is one doing
something and standing."

That's about a general condition.

The other type is: "Some one was doing  something and was standing."
That's a fact--an actual observation. The speaker (of the poem) saw a
specific person doing this specific thing. Logically, then, the first type
kicks in and is operative: when any one is doing the thing that I just
said I saw being done, then there is a general state of being (is...) in

But in 99 of 100 instances, where you have an actual observation compared
with a generalization, the fact does not quite match up perfectly with the
observation. What's supposed to happen isn't always borne out in what
happens, precisely. In this instance Stein deliberately shows the fact
matching the generalization.

The generalization acts like an inherently true statement (like "All
bachelors are unmarried"--a statement true in itself, by definition).
Therefore when you actually see an instance of a specific bachelor he is
going to be unmarried.

Yet....yet.... doing something and standing is not the kind of
action-in-words that is inherently "true" in a sentence. It's rather an
odd convergence of positions (for a writer, as someone, Alberto I think,
observed), two things a writer might do. So the perfect match of the
general and the specific is striking.

What's odd then is not the observation but the generalization. Among other
things, this is a subtle rebuke of imagism (early modernism that focused
so obsessively on the observation rendered precisely in words without
generalization). As if to say, "If you observe some actual person doing
something actually, do you really claim that it's qualitatively different,
in writing, than noting generally that any actual person doing that action
is doing the same thing as if he or she were doing it actually?"


navigate 88v: schedule | key | home | PAPERs | | m a i l the s t a f f