"Tell Me a Riddle": Tillie Olsen

Overview

"Tell Me a Riddle" renders an unforgettable portrait of a working-class couple when the gender-determined differences in their experiences of poverty and familial life give rise to bitter conflict after almost four decades of marriage. As she dies of cancer, Eva, the protagonist, recollects a revolutionary past that both critiques and offers hope for the present. Deborah Rosenfelt's introduction and the essays in this volume survey the critical reception of this highly acclaimed story, analyze its biographical and historical contexts, examine the ...
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Overview

"Tell Me a Riddle" renders an unforgettable portrait of a working-class couple when the gender-determined differences in their experiences of poverty and familial life give rise to bitter conflict after almost four decades of marriage. As she dies of cancer, Eva, the protagonist, recollects a revolutionary past that both critiques and offers hope for the present. Deborah Rosenfelt's introduction and the essays in this volume survey the critical reception of this highly acclaimed story, analyze its biographical and historical contexts, examine the text's language, structure, and spiritual and moral significance, and illuminate Olsen's relationship to the American Midwest, the American left, and the Jewish enlightenment tradition.

This casebook includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of Olsen's life, an authoritative text of "Tell Me a Riddle," relevant essays by Olsen, seven critical essays, and a bibliography.

The contributors are Joanne Trautmann Banks, Constance Coiner, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Mara Faulkner, Elaine Neil Orr, Linda Ray Pratt, and Deborah Silverton Rosenfelt.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Olsen, the writer, teacher, and 1930s left-wing activist, was born in 1912 of East European parents committed to Socialist and Jewish enlightenment values. Her work reflects the discrimination and marginalization she felt as a young girl growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. Like other women of the time, Olsen was underappreciated even in leftist circles, which suffered much the same gender bias as the larger society. "Tell Me a Riddle," which received the O. Henry first prize for best American short story in 1961, is reprinted in this volume (edited by Rosenfelt, women's studies, Univ. of Maryland) along with seven critical essays by feminist literary scholars, previously published in books or journals, that give a contemporary appreciation to Olsen's work. Highly recommended for multicultural collections, women's studies, and all American literature collections.Lesley Jorbin, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813521374
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Series: Women Writers: Texts and Contexts Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Chronology 27
Tell Me a Riddle 33
Silences in Literature 87
Personal Statement 105
The Circumstances of Silence: Literary Representation and Tillie Olsen's Omaha Past 113
From the Thirties: Tillie Olsen and the Radical Tradition 133
A Feminist Spiritual Vision 177
Death Labors 199
Motherhood as Source and Silencer of Creativity 213
To "Bear My Mother's Name": Kunstlerromane by Women Writers 243
"No One's Private Ground": A Bakhtinian Reading of Tillie Olsen's Tell Me a Riddle 271
Selected Bibliography 305
Permissions 309
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