Liesl Olson is Director of the Scholl Center for American History and Culture at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Previously she held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2011-12) and an NEH/Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Newberry Library (2010-11). From 2005-2009 she taught at the University of Chicago as a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Humanities Division. Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, Olson grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University. She received her doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in New York City. Olson’s first book Modernism and the Ordinary (Oxford U P, 2009) examines a broad range of twentieth-century writers and how their works present the habitual and unselfconscious actions of everyday life. She has also published articles on Henry James, Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, Wallace Stevens, and the contemporary poet Robert Hass. Olson is currently working on a book about the literary and cultural centrality of Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century. She lives in Chicago with her husband and three sons.
In 2013, Liesl Olson will direct a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute. "Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955" focuses on Chicago as the center of a new modernist geography. The institute will be held from June 17-July 12 at the Newberry Library, and will feature prominent faculty members in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African-American studies. For more information, including how to apply, please see: