[Msa-discuss] Tender Buttons?

Churchill, Suzanne suchurchill at davidson.edu
Wed Feb 20 16:46:20 EST 2013

Tender Buttons should liven things up! Like others, I often invite students to "make your own Tender Button." The bad imitations can be as instructive as the good ones.

For class discussion, I start by pairing the first TB (A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass) with a Cubist collage, and invite them to read the poem as instructions for seeing and reading in a new, Cubist way: it's "a system of pointing," which is "not ordinary" but "not unordered," even though it  is "not resembling" conventional poetry. This cubist way of reading fixes our attention on surface and materials. But then I point out (borrowing from Carolyn Burke) that in colloquial French, "collage" meant an unmarried couple cohabitating. At this point, I draw their attention to the most erotic Tender Buttons, making them read "Red Roses" 3x, fast and out loud until they catch the sexual pun.

Presenting two ways of reading TB (Cubist experiment vs. Lesbian strategy) leads to a discussion of how Stein is experimenting with surface and depth, media and meaning, and in the process, breaking out of poetic, domestic, and sexual habits and inhabitations.


Suzanne Churchill
Davidson College

From: Jennifer Williams <jhwilliams at calvin.edu<mailto:jhwilliams at calvin.edu>>
Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:24 PM
To: "msa-discuss at chaos.press.jhu.edu<mailto:msa-discuss at chaos.press.jhu.edu>" <msa-discuss at chaos.press.jhu.edu<mailto:msa-discuss at chaos.press.jhu.edu>>
Subject: [Msa-discuss] Tender Buttons?

Dear All,

I'm planning a lecture on Stein's Tender Buttons tomorrow.  My class has been a bit flat of late, so I was hoping to plan something interactive and funnish.  Does anyone have a lesson plan that has worked or ideas?

Thanks so much,


Jennifer Hardy Williams

Asst. Professor of English
Calvin College
1795 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616)526-8515 FAX: (616)526-8508


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