Richard Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, Emeritus, died Oct. 8 at the age of 90.
Ohmann received his BA from Oberlin College and his MA and PhD from Harvard University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1961 and, until his retirement in 1996, served in many roles and helped to shape the future of Wesleyan.
Joel Pfister, Olin Professor of English, sketched Ohmann’s trajectory: “He was promoted rapidly to full professor; was appointed vice president and provost; protested on national TV against the Vietnam War; was elected vice president of the Modern Language Association (MLA) on an antiwar platform; founded with some other lefty luminaries the fabulous journal Radical Teacher; completely freaked out English departments everywhere with his powerful and hugely influential Marxist critique of the reigning constructions of the field in English in America (1976); and went on to write several more field-changing books (one with his friend Noam Chomsky), including Politics of Letters (1987) and Selling Culture (1996).”
Henry Abelove, Willbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, Emeritus, commented: “No one did more than he to guide Wesleyan in absorbing the best of the lessons of the social movements of the 1960s.”