Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Forgotten Women: Three Overlooked Short Story Writers

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Marlene Hobel


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing

10-Week Course

February 26 - May 6


Nancy Hale had 80+ stories published in the New Yorker and won 10 O’Henry Awards, yet we hardly recognize her name. When Lauren Groff compiled Hale’s collection, Where the Light Falls in 2019, the Wall Street Journal dubbed them “affecting and sharply observed short stories from an unjustly neglected American master.”

Edith Pearlman published more than 200 short stories over four decades, mostly in the small literary magazines and presses. But her 2011 collection, Binocular Vision, lifted her out of relative obscurity, making her a belated literary star at age 74. When it made the cover of the New York Times Book Review, novelist Roxana Robinson in a rave review asked: “Why in the world had I never heard of Edith Pearlman?”

Hilma Wolitzer published her first short story, “Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket,” in 1966 and went on to publish numerous stories in the Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, and Ms., along with nine novels. She received Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and an American Academy of Arts Award in Literature. At age 91, she gained attention with a retrospective collection capped by a 2020 story about losing her husband to COVID.

Who are these forgotten women writers? Is their work worthy of a higher profile among commonly heralded authors of their time? Let’s explore them together (see course website’ll do a close reading and discuss one story each week to discover whether these writers still speak to us today.
Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials

Nancy Hale, Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale, Literary Classics of the United States, paperback edition - May 2023, (ISBN: 9781598537482). Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories, 2011, Lookout Books, paperback edition (ISBN: 9780982338292). Two Hilma Wolitzer stories provided via PDF on course website (Weeks 9 and 10).

Preparation Time

We’ll read one short story per week, and students are encouraged to read each story at least twice (first for the gist, second for a close read and analysis). Some other brief articles and videos. Roughly 2 hours/week.


Marlene Hobel began her professional life teaching English to first generation college students in South Carolina. Next, she taught reading to youthful offenders in prison, where she felt incarcerated daily. She escaped into the corporate world, and enjoyed a long career in corporate communications for a global environmental engineering firm. She has graduate degrees in English Literature and Counseling. She joined BOLLI in Spring 2017. A frequent moderator of the New Yorker Fiction Salon, she also taught two short story courses exploring authors Lorrie Moore and Lauren Groff, and one on the theme of motherhood.