Richard M. Ohmann, 90, dies; Bringing Radical Politics to Academic English

He used his leadership role at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, to help create some of the country’s premier programs in Gender Studies and African American Studies, and he edited two influential journals, College English and Radical Teacher. , who spread his ideas around academia. world. He invited other left-wing academics to guest edition issues, which he devoted to then-outraged subjects like homosexuality in literature.

“He has protected and covered all kinds of sweeping initiatives when it comes to dangerous things to do,” Richard Slotkin, professor emeritus of English and American studies at Wesleyan, said in a telephone interview.

Dr Ohmann’s efforts paved the way for the rise of cultural studies as a discipline and the so-called Culture Wars of the 1980s and 1990s, in which academics like him worked to open the canon for writers and artists. once marginalized. His influence was such that in 1996 Lynne Cheney, former Conservative chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, named him a dangerous radical in an essay for the Wall Street Journal.

Elizabeth Bobrick, a visiting scholar at Wesleyan, wrote in the university’s alumni magazine in 1998, “In this amorphous, amoebic field” of cultural studies, “Ohmann is the closest thing to a patriarch that his chosen medium.

Richard Malin Ohmann was born July 11, 1931 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His father, Oliver Arthur Ohmann, taught psychology at present-day Case Western Reserve University and later worked for Standard Oil. Her mother, Grace (Malin) Ohmann, was a housewife.

He received his BA in Literature from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1952, and his MA and PhD from Harvard in 1960. He came to Wesleyan a year later.

Dr. Ohmann married Carol Burke in 1962. They separated in the 1980s and he married Elizabeth Powell in 1990. She died in 2007. He is survived with his daughter-in-law, Sarah Ohmann; one stepson, Stephen Polier; and a step-granddaughter.

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