Liesl Olson is Director of the Scholl Center for American History and Culture at the Newberry Library in Chicago. 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. Olson is currently working on a book about the literary and cultural centrality of Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century, Chicago Renaissance: How the Midwest Made Modernism (forthcoming, Yale U P). She lives in Chicago with her husband and three sons.
In 2013, Liesl Olson directed a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, "Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955." The institute focused on Chicago as the center of a new modernist geography, and was held at the Newberry Library. It featured prominent faculty members in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African-American studies. Currently, Olson is building a curated web exhibit tracing the development and proliferation of modernism in the Midwest. Also funded by the NEH, the web exhibit will digitize a wealth of primary-source material from the Newberry's collection, and feature brief essays by institute participants.