Listening to Silences: New Essays in Feminist Criticism / Edition 1

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Thirty years ago, in a lecture at the Radcliffe Institute, Tillie Olsen first addressed the problem of silences in literature—paving the way for future explorations of the subject, including her landmark work, Silences. The subject of silences and silencing—as fact, as trope, as lens through which to understand literary history—has been central to feminist criticism ever since.
In Listening to Silences, a group of distinguished feminist literary critics reevaluates Olsen's heritage to reassert, extend, redefine, and question her insights, and to probe the dynamics of silence and silencing as they operate today in literature, criticism, and the academy. The book traces for the first time the genealogy of an important American critical tradition, one that still influences contemporary debates about feminism, multiculturalism, and the literary canon.
Contributors to Listening to Silences include Kate Adams, Norma Alarcon, Joanne Braxton, Sharon Zuber, King-Kok Cheung, Constance Coiner, Robin Dizard, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Diana Hume George, Elaine Hedges, Carla Kaplan, Patricia Laurence, Rebecca Mark, Diane Middlebrook, Carla L. Peterson, Lillian Robinson, Deborah Silverton Rosenfelt, Judith L. Sensibar, and Judith Bryant Wittenberg.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Because of this wide range of critical texts and perspectives, this would be an excellent text to use as part of an undergraduate or graduate course [focusing] on women's writing and/or feminism in the American context...These essays could serve as models for their own criticism as well as aids to reading and classroom discussion....For readers interested in current critical/postmodern readings of speech and silence in American feminist thought and writing, this anthology will present a valuable supplemtn and reference to their thought and work."—MELUS

"Paying homage to the wealth of conceptual possibilities first introduced by Tillie Olsen, this collection is admirable for its refusal to remain silent about any aspect of women's writings—or women's lives—inside or outside the academy. As a result, these essays tremble with revelations—about sexuality, mothering, teaching, reading, writing, and how we construct feminist literary criticism as a profession and as a life's practice."—Annette Kolodny, author of The Lay of the Land and The Land Before Her

"This is a landmark volume in the history of American feminism. Elaine Hedges and Shelley Fisher Fishkin have produced the only version of the history of feminist criticism in the U.S.—what it's about and what it still wants to do—that makes sense to me. The story it tells, of the foundation of women's studies on the circulation of Tille Olsen's reading lists, of publishers convinced to join her in the recovery of lost writers, of the origins of struggle to change the canonical curriculum in the U.S. universities in the politics of the American left—this is the real story of our roots.***continued in next field****

**continued from previous field*** Every piece is political in this gripping narrative of what we did as engaged writers, critics, and teachers and what we failed to do. Every essay is committed to critiquing the past performance of feminism and urging us on in racial, ethnic, and class consciousness, in the bread-and-butter issues of our lives in teaching. Listening to Silences is as vital and important to intellectuals of the '90s as Silences was to the '70s and '80s."—Jane Marcus, Distinguished Professor of English, The City College of New York

"Listening to Silences is an exceptionally rich and methodologically expansive collection of essays that reminds us of the centrality of the works of Tillie Olsen in feminist criticism in particular and post-structuralism in general. This book presents feminist criticism at its best by demonstrating that it is not simply a critique on gender, but an indispensable tool for examining the textual production of culturally diverse women."—Claudia Tate, George Washington University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195073072
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Hedges is Professor of English and Director of Women's Studies at Towson State University.
Shelley Fisher Fishkin is Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Circle of Women Artists: Tillie Olsen and Anne Sexton at the Radcliffe Institute 17
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic: The Lessons Silences Has Taught Us 23
Rereading Tell Me a Riddle in the Age of Deconstruction 49
"No One's Private Ground": A Bakhtinian Reading of Tillie Olsen's Tell Me a Riddle 71
"Further Liftings of the Veil": Gender, Class, and Labor in Frances E. W. Harper's Iola Leroy 97
Attentive Silence in Joy Kogawa's Obasan 113
Northamerican Silences: History, Identity, and Witness in the Poetry of Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, and Leslie Marmon Silko 130
Silences in Harriet "Linda Brent" Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl 146
Women's Silence as a Ritual of Truth: A Study of Literary Expressions in Austen, Bronte and Woolf 156
Reading Feminist Readings: Recuperative Reading and the Silent Heroine of Feminist Criticism 168
Silent Parenting in the Academy 197
"How Many of Us Can You Hold to Your Breast?": Mothering in the Academy 225
Teaching from the Open Closet 245
Cognitive Desires: An Allegory of/for Chicana Critics 260
Silences in the In-Between: Feminist Women Critics and the Canon 274
"The Great Unexamined": Silence, Speech, and Class 287
Filling in the Silences: Tillie Olsen's Reading Lists 295
Contributors 311
Index 315
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