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November 16 , 2008

Three Radical Women Writers

Class and Gender in Meridel Le Sueur, Tillie Olsen, and Josephine Herbst


Combining biography, history, and literary theory, this work looks at three of the most significant women writers to emerge from American radicalism of the 1930s. Le Sueur, Olsen, and Herbst were influenced by the Communist movement of the time, but each also forged an independent vision of feminist socialist literary milieu. Drawing on Marxist and post-Marxist theory, and addressing the challenge of such new feminist theorists as Jean Bethke Elshtain, Roberts takes a theoretical approach that encompasses the social vision and feminist practice of the writers and places them in their historical, cultural, and social contexts. The study covers their lives from the turn of the century to the 1970s, with an emphasis on the 1930s; examines their views of the Cold War; links the three to the Progressive tradition; and analyzes their key literary works. Resources for analysis include historical and contemporary theory; excerpts from the radical press of the 1920s and 1930s; and primary materials from the writers themselves, including journals, notes, and unpublished archival materials.

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