Present      Director of Chicago Studies, Newberry Library

The mission of Chicago Studies is to illuminate Chicago’s dynamic history, literature, culture, and politics through an array of public and scholarly programs inspired by the library’s unique archival collection. Chicago Studies organizes public events; collaborates with Teacher Programs; directs NEH summer institutes for college and university faculty; leads a seminar in archival praxis for doctoral students; contributes to the fellowship program; and works closely with other cultural institutions across Chicago.

Jan. 2012 – July 1, 2015      Director, Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture, Newberry Library.

2005-2009       Harper-Schmidt Fellow & Assistant Professor, University of Chicago.


Ph.D.   Columbia University, English and Comparative Literature.

M.A.    Columbia University, English and Comparative Literature.

B.A.     Stanford University, Honors Program in English + Phi Beta Kappa.


2015-2016   American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship.

2011-2012   National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship.

2010-2011  National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, The Newberry Library.

2011-2012   American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellowship (1 year), Cambridge, MA.(declined)

2003-2004   Whiting Fellowship, Columbia University.

Summer 2002    Mellon Fellowship, The Henry H. Huntington Library.


Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis (Yale U P 2017).

Modernism and the Ordinary (Oxford, 2009).


“Flat Black Stretches of Chicago,” Richard Wright in Context, edited Michael Nowlin (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2020).

On Worrying about Linda,” Avidly (November 30, 2018).

My L.A. in Four Locations, Los Angeles Review of Books (November 6, 2018).

“Little Rooms.” Into the City: A History of Chicago Art, eds. Robert Cozzolino and Maggie Taft (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2018).

Midwest Interludes: Three Vignettes of the Chicago Renaissance, Los Angeles Review of Books, August 22, 2017.

When Chicago Was the Real Literary Capital of the United States,” LitHub, September 18, 2017

“Margaret Anderson’s My Thirty Years’ War.” Chicago 101 (Chicago: Caxton Club and the University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2017).

Chicago Poems: Stormy, Husky, Brawling at 100.” Los Angeles Review of Books (July 10, 2016).  https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/carl-sandburgs-chicago-stormy-husky-brawling-at-100/

“Seeing Eldzier Cortor.” Chicago Review (May, 2016). http://chicagoreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/59-4-Eldzier-Cortor.pdf

“‘Fruitful Envy’: Writers at The Arts Club of Chicago.” The Arts Club at 100: Art and Culture in Chicago, 1916-2016 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press/The Arts Club of Chicago, 2016).

“Across Stark Lines.” Centennial: A History of the Renaissance Society, 1915-2015 (Chicago: The Renaissance Society, 2015).

“Stevens and Auden.” Wallace Stevens Journal (Fall, 2013): 224-230.

“100 Years of Poetry: ‘In the Middle of Major Men.’” Poetry Foundation website (October, 2012): http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/244666.

“Alexander Calder Letter to Rue Shaw.” The Newberry 125: Stories of Our Collection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

“Everyday Life Studies.” Modernism/Modernity (January, 2011): 175-180. http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/modernism-modernity/v018/18.1.olson.html

“‘An invincible force meets an immovable object’: Gertrude Stein comes to Chicago.” Modernism/Modernity (April, 2010): 331-361. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/mod/summary/v017/17.2.olson.html

“Introduction.” Narration, by Gertrude Stein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010): vii-xii. http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/N/bo8834080.html

“Robert Hass’s Guilt or The Weight of Wallace Stevens.” The American Poetry Review, Volume 36, number 5 (Sept/Oct 2007): 37-45. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Robert+Hass’s+Guilt+or+The+Weight+of+Wallace+Stevens.-a0188364798

“Sex and Sexuality.” A Companion to Modernist Literature and Culture, Eds. David Bradshaw and Kevin J.H. Dettmar (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006).

“Wallace Stevens’ Commonplace.” The Wallace Stevens Journal 29.1 (Spring 2005): 106-116.

“Virginia Woolf’s ‘cotton wool of daily life.’” Journal of Modern Literature 26.2 (Winter 2003): 42-65.

“Gertrude Stein, William James, and Habit in the Shadow of War.” Twentieth-Century Literature, Volume 49, number 3 (Fall 2003): 328-359.

“Stevens and Auden: Antimythological Meetings.” The Wallace Stevens Journal 27 (Fall 2003): 240-254. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/12721056/stevens-auden-antimythologicalmeetings


(Project Team and Scholarly Advisor): Chicago 1919: Confronting the Race Riots

Developed in partnership with ten other Chicago-based cultural organizations and designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a week-long period of racial violence in the city, this NEH grant to the Newberry library will support a broad range of city-wide programs—from film premieres and youth poetry slams to public conversations and bike tours—and engage audiences in an ongoing dialogue about the riots’ impact on Chicago’s past and present. (February 2019-November 2019).

(Organizer, Moderator, and Presenter): Wish You Were Here: Postcards and Visual Culture (September 2018); Collective Thought: Chicago Clubs and Their Patrons, 1880-1920 (October 2018); Chicago Style: Typography in the City (December 2018).

Funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art, three public programs at the Newberry explored 1) the history of the American postcard—with a focus on the Curt Teich Archives Collection; 2) Chicago’s arts and cultural clubs and their proliferation in the city from the 1880s through the 1920s; and 3) the history of typography and book design—with a “hands-on” workshop in collaboration with the Chicago Design Museum during which participants worked with materials from the Newberry’s design collection.

(Curator): Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago http://publications.newberry.org/makingmodernism/

This web exhibit traces the literary and cultural development of Chicago from the 1890s through the 1950s, highlighting such figures as Harriet Monroe, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Fanny Butcher, Ernest Hemingway, Arna Bontemps, Era Bell Thompson, and Jack Conroy. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the exhibit makes available exemplary and unpublished archival documents from the Newberry collection (poetry, correspondence, artwork, photographs, and essays of writers, artists, and critics) with brief articles that help to incorporate the materials into the college classroom.

(Organizer): ‘America Needs a Voice Like Hers’: Gwendolyn Brooks and A Street in Bronzeville, The Newberry Library, April 5, 2017. As part of a citywide celebration of Brooks marking the one-hundredth anniversary of her birth, the Newberry gathered poets, scholars, historians, and archivists to discuss the historical context of Brooks’s groundbreaking first book of poems. Published in August 1945—the same month that WWII ended—the collection expresses the rich complexities of life on Chicago’s South Side within the larger fight for democracy both at home and abroad.

(Organizer): Stormy, Husky, Brawling: Chicago Poetry 100 years after Sandburg’s Chicago Poems, The Newberry Library, March 12, 2014.  This public program was inspired by the controversy—100 years ago—over the publication of Sandburg’s Chicago Poems in Poetry magazine.  Poets, musicians, activists, journalists, literary scholars, and historians read and performed work inspired by Sandburg.  The program also included an exhibit of Sandburg-related material from the Newberry collection.


2013, 2017, 2019    Director, NEH Summer Institute, Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 18931955.

* 4-week institute for college and university faculty exploring Chicago’s Influence on the literature and art of the twentieth century, from the 1893 World’s Fair to the Chicago Black Renaissance.

Fall 2018, 2019, 2020   The Archive: Theory, Form, Practice, Newberry Library

* Seminar for graduate students in the humanities that explores the theoretical, critical, and practical methods necessary to negotiate historical and literary archives.

2018    Co-Director, NEH Summer Institute, Art and Public Culture in Chicago.

* 3-week institute for college and university faculty looking at the arts, their reception, and their civic import in Chicago from the 1893 World’s Fair through the present moment. Emphasis on artistic communities, small-scale venues, and vernacular expressions that developed against or alongside Chicago’s mainstream cultural institutions—especially those that took shape in the city’s African American neighborhoods.

Spring 2017   Chicago Studies and the Archive, Newberry Library

* Interdisciplinary seminar designed to give graduate students an introduction to theories of the archive and to modern archival practices.

Feb. 2011     “City of the Big Shoulders”: Chicago and Twentieth-Century Literature.

* All-day seminar for high-school teachers held at the Newberry library.

Sept. 2005 – June 2009   Readings in World Literature, The University of Chicago.

* 3-quarter thematic course for spanning multiple national literatures.

Jan. 2006 – March 2007   Wallace Stevens and After, The University of Chicago.

* Graduate and undergraduate seminar examining Stevens’s impact on avant-garde and mainstream American poetry.

March 2005 – June 2006   Poetry and Politics, The University of Chicago.

* Undergraduate seminar exploring the political movements affiliated with twentieth-century poetry.

Sept. 2004 – May 2005    Literature Humanities, Columbia University.

* “Great Books” course, an intensive full-year seminar for first-years.


Oct. 2017   Arts Club Chicago

* Conversation with artist Lincoln Schatz

Oct. 2017   WBEZ-NPR, Chicago IL

* Morning Shift, Chicago Literature and Art

July 2017   WBEZ-NPR, Chicago IL

* Curious City, “Carl Sandburg’s Chicago.”

Nov. 2015   POETRY FOUNDATION, Chicago IL

* “An Adventure Was Home: Gertrude Stein in Chicago”

July 2013   WBEZ-NPR, Chicago IL

* “Who was Hemingway at 25?”

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