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Richard M. Ohman, 90, passed away; English brought radical politics to college

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Richard M. Ohman, 90, passed away; English brought radical politics to college

She used her 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 she edited two influential journals, College English and Radical Teacher, who spread his ideas around academia. World. He invited other leftist scholars to edit issues, which he devoted to the then-topics such as homosexuality in literature.

Richard Slotkin, an emeritus professor of English and American studies at Wesleyan, said in a phone interview, “They gave protection and cover to all kinds of radical initiatives, when these were dangerous things.”

Dr. Oman’s efforts set the stage for the rise of cultural studies as a discipline and the so-called culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s, in which academics like him sought to break theory for once marginalized writers and artists. Work done. Such was his influence that in 1996 Lynn Cheney, the conservative former president of the National Endowment for the Humanities and wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, hailed him as a dangerous radical in an essay in The Wall Street Journal.

Elizabeth Bobrick, a visiting scholar of Wesleyan, wrote in the university’s alumni journal in 1998, “in this amorphous, amoebic field” of cultural studies, “Oman is the closest thing to a patriarch that its chosen environment allows.”

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

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He received a bachelor’s degree in literature from Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1952, and a master’s and doctorate degree from Harvard in 1960. They arrived at Wesleyan a year later.

Dr. Ohman married Carol Burke in 1962. They separated in the 1980s, and he married Elizabeth Powell in 1990. He died in 2007. With his stepdaughter, his daughter, Sarah Ohman; a stepson, Stephen Pollier; and a step-granddaughter.

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