Paul Olson

Art Discipline: 
LIncoln, NE
United States
Dates of Residence: 
Apr 20, 2009 to May 1, 2009

I was born in 1932 and lived through the Dust Bowl and Depression in South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. In 1944 my father was struck down with rheumatic fever, and we returned to Nebraska so my mother could support the family by teaching in a one-room school near Ithaca, NE. I worked at a variety of jobs in my youth -- as a farmer's hired man, a construction worker, a house painter, and a library helper -- and I attended little Lutheran colleges in Nebraska and Kansas. In 1951-53, I gained by M.A. at the University of Nebraska, then had a Fulbright in London in 1953-54, and took my PhD. at Princeton in 1954-57. There I specialized in medieval and Renaissance studies. When I completed my PhD, I determined to return to my roots, to work on my scholarly specialty and on the quality of Nebraska education. The latter interest led to my leadership of Project English, the USOE Tri-University project, the national TTT project, and the 1971-75 Study Commission on Undergraduate Education. In 1976, I was asked to form the Center for Great Plains Studies, an area that allowed me again to explore my roots. I have written twelve books on education and on literature and many pieces concerned with writers like Rolvaag, Cather, Neihardt, and Black Elk. I have published 12 books. My most recent a book on Shakespeare called "Beyond a Common Joy" just came out in November 2008. I taught for fifty years at the university and helped to develop studies in medieval and Renaissance works and studies in Great Plains literature, teaching early African-American, African, and Plains Indian courses and interdisciplinary courses in Great Plains Studies there. I taught at the university for fifty years and from 1968 on, I was Kate Foster Professor of English. In that role, I directed about seventy PhD. D. dissertations.