The introduction articulates the distinction between the shock-based aesthetic of avant-garde modernism and the “recontextualizing” mode represented by pragmatic modernism. It does so by examining Gertrude Stein’s expulsion from “the Transition crowd,” a community of avant-garde artists and writers that included Tristan Tzara, Eugene Jolas, and Georges Braque. Stein, the introduction argues, rejected the avant-garde ideology of rupture and opposition and embraced instead a nuanced and institutionally based vision of change. Her vision hinged on the concept of habit, which she reconceptualized, following pragmatist philosophy, as a dialectical process.
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