a philosophy blog

“Vienese [sic] lunatic”

Notes on James R. Mellow, Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company

Editor’s note: Mellow’s was an early reference to the Stein’s Otto Weininger connection, it seems, with a view to ridicule by association.

Stein’s characterological obsession is suggested as having its origin with Weininger. [It is more likely that Weininger provided her much needed corroboration for a pre-existing obsession. He basically validated her inclination. Though what may have ultimately motivated them can be enlighteningly distinguished, the consonance between them is striking.]

Adele’s eureka in Q.E.D. at having discovered a “mathematical” aspect to her relationship to Helen.


Whether Gertrude, as a woman and a Jew, overlooked or dismissed the more rabid philosophizing of Weininger is not altogether clear.

[We suggest she did not have occasion to overlook it because she did not perceive it as “rabid.” See Stein’s recently discovered typescript in Wineapple.]

Stein recommended Weininger’s book to Marian Walker, her feminist friend from her Johns Hopkins medical school days. Marian wrote to Stein on June 11th, 1909:

By the way, in an idle moment I read the book on sex which you said exactly embodied your views—the one by the Vienese [sic]* lunatic. It struck me that you made a mistake in your statement—it was evidently before not after he wrote the book that he went insane. We had a considerable amount of fun, however, in calculating the percentage of male and female in our various friends according to his classification. But he was really a very half-baked individual.

* Editor’s note: The “[sic]” appears, not in Mellow, but in the version of this quote found in Brenda Wineapple’s Sister Brother, p. 265. Luno must have confused his notes—or, perhaps, found the sic charming.

Stein writes, “Pablo & Matisse have a maleness that belongs to genius. Moi aussi perhaps.” (From notes made during the composition of The Making of Americans.)

Just as Walker thought Weininger “half-baked,” so Mellow considers The Making of Americans, and he seems to takes a dim view of Stein’s comment that it should be classed among the greatest literary works of the century, the other two being Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Joyce’s Ulysses. [We will have to investigate whether Weininger was not somewhere in the background of Proust’s work (there is a faint reference in Sengoopta to the effect) as we know it was behind the other two “greatest literary works of the century.”]

Posted by luno in Stein, Weininger (Sunday July 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm)

No comments for “Vienese [sic] lunatic”»

No comments yet.

Leave a comment


(required but not published)

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Creative Commons License