Adam Frank is Professor in the Department of English at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver. The author of Transferential Poetics, from Poe to Warhol (Fordham University Press, 2015) and co-author, with Elizabeth Wilson, of the forthcoming A Silvan Tomkins Handbook (Minnesota University Press), he has also produced several recorded audiodramas associated with the Radio Free Stein project.
If you’re looking for a theory of modernist setting, you could do worse than to turn to Gertrude Stein’s plays and landscape theater poetics. Recall that in her 1934 lecture “Plays” Stein offers her solution to the peculiar problem of “nervousness,” the emotional syncopation she perceives between audience and events on the stage. Bothered by the inordinate claim that narrative makes on audience attention and, as a result, “the different tempo there is in the play and in yourself and your emotion,” Stein turns away from story to landscape: “I felt that if a play was exactly like a landscape then there would be no difficulty about the emotion of the person looking on at the play” (“Plays,” 94, 122).