"Tillie Olsen’s fiction and essays have been widely and rightly acknowledged as major contributions to American literature. Her work has been particularly valued by contemporary feminists. Yet few of Olsen’s readers realize the extent to which her vision and choice of subject are rooted in an earlier literary heritage–the tradition of radical political thought, mostly socialist and anarchist, of the 1910’s and 1920’s, and the Old Left tradition of the 1930’s. I do not mean that one can adequately explain the eloquence of her work in terms of its political origins, or tht left-wing politics were the single most important influence on it. My point is that its central consciousness–its profound understanding of class and gender as shaping influences on people’s lives–owes much to that earlier literary heritage, a heritage that, in general, has not been sufficiently valued by most contemporary literary critics."
Advertisements