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College of Arts and Humanities

Steven Olson

Department of English


Professor Emeritus

Curriculum Vitae | Publications

Steve Olson grew up in what some people still think of as the territory of South Dakota, was educated at universities in Minnesota, Texas, and Illinois, with a three-year stint in the U. S. Army in between. His teaching and research interests are primarily in American literature, and he finds himself mainly in the literature of the nineteenth century, sometimes keeping company with optimists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, sometimes with pessimists like Herman Melville and the later Mark Twain, and sometimes with the in-betweeners like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Emily Dickinson. He has been known to venture into the twentieth century as far as to appreciate William Faulkner. Though a poor golfer, he still doesn't agree with Twain that "Golf is a good walk – spoiled." Walking around for its own sake has no purpose: one should be chasing after something, why not the impossible?


Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D., English, University of Illinois (U of I), 1986
  • M.A., English, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), 1978
  • B.A., English, Moorhead State University, 1972

Teaching Experience

Associate Professor, Central Washington University, 1989-2017. American Literature (surveys of all periods and novel from 1850 to the present). Seminars in Twain, Melville, Poe and Hawthorne, Whitman and Dickinson, Hawthorne and Faulkner. Principles of English Studies. Studies in Film. Composition. Introduction to Literature.

Assistant Professor, Northern Montana College, 1986-1989. American Literature (surveys of all periods). Form in American Poetry. Mark Twain Seminar. Freshman Composition. Critical Writing. Technical Writing. Research Writing.

Teaching Assistant, University of Illinois, 1980-1986. Freshman Composition. Composition with Computers. Masterpieces of English Literature. Masterpieces of American Literature. Introductions to fiction and poetry. Wilderness in Literature.

Instructor and Teaching Assistant, University of Texas at El Paso, 1977-1979. Freshman Composition. Technical Writing.

Courses Taught at CWU

  • Principles of English Studies
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • American Literature I and II
  • Studies in Film
  • Studies in Major American Writers,
  • Studies in the Film Auteur
  • American Novel I and II
  • Modern Poetry
  • English Composition
  • The Literary Imagination: Introduction to Literature

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Several entries in The Walt Whitman Encyclopedia. Eds. Donald D.

Kummings and J. R. LeMaster. New York and London : Garland , 1998. The entries are on the concept of space in Whitman and on the following poems and sections of Leaves of Grass : "Whispers of Heavenly Death" (poem and section), "From Far Dakota's Canons," "From the Leaven'd Soil They Trod," "From Noon to Starry Night" (section),"Song of the Redwood Tree."

The Prairie in Nineteenth-Century American Poetry . Norman and

London : U of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

"'Now the wild prairie to the view Appears': Nineteenth-Century Illinois

Poets of the Prairies."Western Illinois Regional Studies 11.1 (1988): 23-38.

"A Perverted Poetics: Bryant's and Emerson's Concern for a Developing

American Literature." American Transcendental Quarterly 61 (October 1986): 15-21.

"William Cullen Bryant's View of Prairie America 's Conflicting Values."

North Dakota Quarterly 53.4 (1985): 35-43.

"Coming Home." South Dakota Review 20.4 (1982): 24-25. Poem.

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