The expatriate experience for women

“Expatriation becomes a form of the Bildungsroman or pilgrimage, in which women undertake a displacement and reterritorialization in order to construct personal and creative identities. What is interesting in the Parisian context is that, whereas male writers predominantly retain their American identity, returning to the States once economic consideration reduced the possibilities of Paris, large numbers of women writers came to identify Paris rather than New York as their defining ‘place,’ indeed the imaginary, ‘sapphic,’ 1920s Paris that [Shari] Benstock evokes [in her 1986 study Women of the Left Bank] is largely derived from the myths through which these women viewed and constructed themselves. Certainly Paris was the city in which their social, emotional, and creative energies developed and were nurtured. Describing Paris as her home for half her life, Gertrude Stein stated that it was ‘not the half that made me but the half in which I made what I made’” (Deborah Parsons, Streetwalking the Metropolis. Oxford UP, 2000, 150-1).

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