Emeritus & Retired Faculty
Dr. Jane Olmsted
In addition to English courses, I teach in the Gender & Women’s Studies program, for the major in Diversity & Community Studies, and for the MA in Social Responsibility & Sustainable Communities.
I was born in Minneapolis. My young mother stepped into a family where the mother had just died suddenly, leaving three boys and a daughter, aged 2-13. She took me after the divorce when I was 18 months old to Ohio, first Columbus then Oberlin, where I grew up, also in a nearby country town (Go Firelands!). I went to Bowling Green State University, where I received my BFA in creative writing, then headed to the University of Louisville for my MA in English/creative writing. I taught at St. Catharine College for two years with my MA then at Berea College for another five, before realizing I needed a Ph.D. to continue teaching in higher education. By then I’d married, divorced, and remarried and had three sons.
Back in 1991, my boys, husband, and mother headed up to Minneapolis for five years, where I earned a Ph.D. in English, with a minor in feminist studies, at the University of Minnesota. My scholarly work has focused on American, African American, and Native American literature, with an emphasis on race and gender, and I have articles in Contemporary Literature and African American Review, and another about Langston Hughes' fiction that originally appeared in Black Orpheus and was reprinted in Short Story Criticism. I came to WKU in 1996 with a joint appointment in English and Women’s Studies.
My colleague Elizabeth Oakes and I founded and edited the Kentucky Feminist Writers Series, which led to three volumes, of poetry, fiction, and life writing: Writing Who We Are, Telling Stories and I to I. My creative writing includes poetry and fiction in an array of journals and one memoir piece that won the 2015 prize in the special gun issue of Memoir Journal. Since then I’ve finished a collection of poetry (Fleur de Lis Press, Louisville) called Seeking the Other Side and a memoir (not published). My current writing project is actually an editing project—I have a large collection of letters from the 1940s written by my mother and uncle to/from their parents. I envision two collections, one of my mother’s tentatively titled Coming of Age in the 1940s and one of my uncle’s, something like Love Letters from the War.
Today my husband and I are raising our younger granddaughter. The older granddaughter lives in Louisville; our grandson lives in Atlanta. Our family doesn’t stop there, however. We have three dogs and two cats; they happily keep us in debt to the veterinarian.
I love my profession and believe that one way, maybe the best way, to fix the brokenness of the world is a liberal arts education and a profound understanding of how gender, race, class, and other elements of difference shape us and our communities. I don’t teach literature for the sake of literature, though I do teach love of literature for the sake of love (whatever that means).