Tillie Olsen Shelley Fisher Fishkin
March 20, 2019 Comments.. 226
Silences First published in 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 th

  • Title: Silences
  • Author: Tillie Olsen Shelley Fisher Fishkin
  • ISBN: 9781558614406
  • Page: 104
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 disaFirst 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.

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    1 Blog on “Silences

    1. Jonathan says:

      Look, quite simply we all owe these silenced women a great debt and one way to partially repay it is to read this, make a shopping list based on all the authors she mentions, and get reading. Her argument is clear and absolutely correct, and is supported in great detail by quotation and reference. You have an obligation to Unbury those few women who managed to get published, even if their works fell quickly out of print and were forgotten. The Internet makes your life very easy - you can find va [...]

    2. Gloria says:

      A slightly disjointed (and seemingly outdated-published in 1978) overview of the "silences" which overtake nearly all writers at one time or another. And yet, not outdated, in the sense that time knows no boundaries when defining the stealing of one's creativity.Kafka (who worked as an official in a state insurance agency and wrote when he could) stated it many times:"These two can never be reconciled. If I have written something one evening, I am afire the next day in the office and can bring n [...]

    3. Kerfe says:

      Tillie Olsen is angry.Women (and to a lesser extent in her book, also some men) have been silenced. The world does not celebrate, support, or even allow us to acknowledge and hear, their voices.I have certainly seen the marginalization of women and their lives, concerns, words. And I have argued with young women about the need for affirmative action, which they sometimes see as just a way to punish them for being born white and middle class.But I also see that many voices are silenced. Most peop [...]

    4. Kit says:

      Really important not to forget Tillie Olsen. I read it as research for my book that will include stuff about women's labor movement in early 20thcentury in US. Makes us remember how hard it is to break out of social definitions of what we should be--how powerful those definitions are and how crippling to the individual human spirit.

    5. Ellie says:

      This book is nonfiction, but reads like a compelling novel. I read it in college and have reread it since. It compeltely opens up new horizons of thought for anyone who concerns themselves with literature and/or gender roles.

    6. Tamara Jaffe-Notier says:

      "Searching for the Self-Loathing Woman Writer" (hazlitt/longreads/searchi) led me to this groundbreaking set of essays. Tillie Olsen was too hard for me when I was a young woman--maybe her words are too true, and it hurt too much. The scars of living my own life have given me enough patience to listen. We should all listen.

    7. Jackie says:

      A bit scatter-shot, but an excellent meditation on the obstacles that can stymie creative work

    8. Engl 328 says:

      Tillie Olsen was born in Nebraska in either 1912 or 1913 in either Mead or Omaha. No birth certificate seems to exist. She is the second of six children born to Samuel and Ida Lerner, Jewish Russian immigrants. In her youth, the Great Depression caused her to have to leave school and work to help support her family. She continued to learn by frequently the public library. Her parents were heavily active in the Communist party and exposed Tillie to a wide range of prominent socialist personalitie [...]

    9. H says:

      from "Silences" (1962 talk)"Constant toil is the law of art, as it is of life," says (and demonstrated) Balzac:To pass from conception to execution, to produce, to bring the ideas, to birth, to raise the child laboriously from infancy, to put it mightily to sleep surfeited, to kiss it in the mornings with the hungry heart of a mother, to clean it, to clothe it fifty times over in new garments which it tears and casts away, and yet not revolt against the trials of this agitated life--this unweary [...]

    10. Maria Longley says:

      Tillie Olsen's 'Silences' has opened up a gaping hollow of loss that is rattling around me. Mourn the loss of the voices of so many people over the years! Questions of which voices are still silenced now are as relevant now as then sadly 'Silences' examines the creative promise/urge/need in authors and the circumstance around why some creative capacity is lost or impaired. The first part has two essays recreated from talks Tillie Olsen gave from notes and the third one is an afterword for a repr [...]

    11. Lizzie says:

      I've already really enjoyed Tillie Olsen's short fiction, but I don't think I realized she had written such an influential nonfiction book about the work/life balance of writers. It looks sort of delightfully difficult to classify. And there are reading lists in here, too?.I'm getting a lot of great to-reads from the book list 500 Great Books By Women, which got set up as a group. There are cool demographics in the list, and I've been tracking them in my reading with a spreadsheet (and so can y [...]

    12. Tony Millspaugh says:

      I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Olsen in 1996 when we were both participants in a conference in Lincoln, NE. She attended the very first scholarly paper presentation and was positively delightfully complimentary of my paper, hugging and kissing me and giving me her home address in San Francisco to obtain a copy of the address, so all this many years later, I finally read my inscribed copy. I wanted to love it. Parts of it are brilliant, but the subject, the subjugation of the talented artist, [...]

    13. Bonnie says:

      "To the unnamed here, whose work and beings are also sustenance; among them those whose life coursings have schooled me ineradicably in the shaping power and inequality of circumstance; beginning when I was a child at Kellom and Long Schools in Omaha and crossed the tracks to Central High School (my first College-of-Contrast)" (Olsen).Coursings: The curliques of life's routes; the dish set before us; the education through which we are shaped, "ineradicably." We are "schooled" by our lives--from [...]

    14. Zoe says:

      I picked this up after about 20 years. Every time I saw it on my shelf it reminded me that I was not alone in the writer's struggle. (Writing here meant as an artistic medium.) Just seeing it on the shelf helped me, but my copy is getting yellowed and brittle. When I first read it as a younger woman in my 20s, I had no premonition of how strongly I would relate to it later, or maybe I did. Now it is somewhat more painful. Do I want this book to stay on my shelf? Yes, I do. But I want to get a be [...]

    15. Rita Quillen says:

      Someone was discussing this book on Facebook yesterday and it reminded me I needed to recommend it!! Especially if you are a woman who wants to write--this book helps you understand the special pressure society will put on you, the way the world will try to hold you back and shame you out of doing anything creative.Society does the same thing to men in some ways, but not as bad, AND men are wise enough to not be susceptible.

    16. Tiffany says:

      A very academic look at writers who have been "silenced", either by their own choice or by circumstances. Olsen, who herself was silenced for years while raising four children and holding down various jobs, delves a lot into the silences of women, mother in particular. She points out that most female writers prior to this century either never got married or never had children. It was an interesting, somewhat uncomfortable read.

    17. Rita says:

      Amazing and very important, gives quote after quote of well-known authors who were prevented from writing what they wanted/needed to write. Thomas Hardy [moral objections of publishers], for example.Financial constraints, social constraints, family circumstances, Lack of Time.Olsen herself had never had the time to write as she wanted, as she had to work to provide for her children single-handed.

    18. Mary says:

      All about the mitigating circumstances that limit--by long interruptions or dead ends--the productive writing lives of both men and women authors, but especially the output of women. In even the most talented, lacking "time of one's own" is seen as the biggest problem. Examples are convincing, with poignant quotes from the frustrated famous, but maybe too much padding once the points are made.

    19. Kristine says:

      Read this at Univ. of California in the seventiesa real eye-opener for a teenager raised outside of the United States. Tillie Olsen writes about the women who were part of my grandmother's era. Portraying a gritty truth rather than the glitzy Hollywood glamour image, this is essential reading for anyone wondering what it was like to be a woman during the thirties.

    20. Lisa Feld says:

      This is one of those cases where I wish I could give a split review. The first essay, the core of the book, was amazing, affirming, heartbreaking. Then the book went on for another 250 pages, and I felt like I wasn't reading anything new, just endless repetition and ennui. But I'd definitely read the first essay again, and highly recommend it.

    21. Rebecca A. says:

      For anyone who's ever had life, loss, love or lost love interrupt one's writing. Till Olsen knew what she was talking about. But this book is not only for women, but for anyone whose circumstances have led to "interruptions" in the artistic life.

    22. Tim says:

      I gave this book to my mother for her birthday in 1980, and am finally reading it myself (I don't know whether she ever read it or not). Very relevant to my family life, as it's main theme is the difficulty of being a woman, especially a mother, and an artist at the same time.

    23. Crystal says:

      Reading Susie Bright's _Big Sex, Little Death: A Memoir_ has inspired me to pull this classic off the shelf.

    24. Monte says:

      a scary book - especially the chapter "one in twelve".

    25. Yuliana says:


    26. Susan says:

      Tillie Olsen is, of course, must read for working class artists.

    27. Randy Lynn says:

      I think I read this years ago, but want to re-read it. Olsen's commentary is huge.

    28. Rudolfo says:

      Intro to the writer's life. No secret: it is a gruelling battle to write and publish.

    29. Reuel says:

      I'm not entirely sure of the year I read this. Ann Morton recommended it.

    30. Susan Polcz/Volbrecht says:

      it's kind of obligatory

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