Richard M. Ohmann, 90, Died; Brought Radical Politics to University

He used his leadership role at Wesleyan University in Connecticut to help create some of the nation’s first programs in gender studies and African-American studies, and was editor of College English and Radical Teacher, two influential journals that spread his ideas in academia. World. He invited other left-wing scholars to edit the topics he devoted to then fashionable topics, such as homosexuality in literature.

“It has given protection and protection to all kinds of radical initiatives when there are dangerous things to do,” Richard Slotkin, professor emeritus of British and American Studies at Wesleyan, said in a phone interview.

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 ’90s, when scholars like him tried to break the canon for once marginalized writers and artists. His influence was such that in 1996 Lynne Cheney, the conservative ex-president of the National Endowment for the Humanities and wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, named him a dangerous radical in an article for The Wall Street Journal.

“In this amorphous, amoebic field” of cultural studies, Elizabeth Bobrick, visiting professor at Wesleyan, wrote in the university’s alumni journal in 1998, “Ohmann is the closest thing to a patriarch his chosen setting has allowed.”

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

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

Ohmann married Carol Burke in 1962. They broke up in the 1980s and married Elizabeth Powell in 1990. He died in 2007. Along with her stepdaughter, she survived her daughter Sarah Ohmann; a stepson, Stephen Polier; and step-granddaughter.

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