Cover image for Silences
Title:
Silences
Author:
Olsen, Tillie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, [1978]
Physical Description:
xiv, 306 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780440079002
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PN151 .O4 1978 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Central Library PN151 .O4 1978 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

First published in 1978, "Silences "single-handedly revolutionized the literary canon. In this classic work, now back in print, Olsen broke open the study of literature and discovered a lost continent-the writing of women and working-class people. From the excavated testimony of authors' letters and diaries we learn the many ways the creative spirit, especially in those disadvantaged by gender, class and race, can be silenced. Olsen recounts the torments of Melville, the crushing weight of criticism on Thomas Hardy, the shame that brought Willa Cather to a dead halt, and struggles of Virginia Woolf, Olsen's heroine and greatest exemplar of a writer who confronted the forces that would silence her. This 25th-anniversary edition includes Olsen's now infamous reading lists of forgotten authors and a new introduction and author preface.


Author Notes

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Tillie Olsen received only a high school education. But because of her success as a writer, she has served as a visiting lecturer and writer-in-residence at a number of colleges, including Amherst College, Stanford University, and MIT. She has received numerous awards for her work, including an O. Henry Award for best American short story (1961) and a Guggenheim fellowship (1976-77).

The widely anthologized "I Stand Here Ironing" (1961), in the circumstances of its publication and its voice and subject, embodies the concerns of Olsen's literary career. In this monologue of a woman reviewing her relationship to her 19-year-old daughter, Olsen suggests the themes of the blighted potential and wasted talent of working-class women that have preoccupied her throughout her career. As she irons, the woman mournfully meditates on how she may have prevented her daughter's full "flowering" - a flowering that she herself has never had. Most intensely recalled is how she had to leave her infant daughter to go to work after her husband abandoned them. A mother herself by age 19, Olsen did not publish her first work until she was in her forties (though she began to write in her teens) when the pressures of supporting herself and her four children lessened and she felt she had written something worthy of publication. At times considered unrelenting in the despair that she attributes to her characters, Olsen's style is marked by a rhythmic, hypnotic lyricism and an evocative use of language.

Olsen later published an introductory essay to the reprint of Rebecca Harding Davis's nineteenth-century novel, Life in the Iron Mills. In Silences (1978), a collection of essays, she addresses directly the various cultural, political, and economic forces that silence women writers and writers from working-class or minority backgrounds.

(Bowker Author Biography)


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