Rebecca Olson Ph.D. '08
I grew up in a small beach town on the Oregon Coast and moved east to attend Boston University, where I developed a passion for Renaissance literature and culture. I was drawn to Brandeis for graduate school because of its reputation as a research university and because of the excellent faculty members in English and American literature. I also thought that the Brandeis Ph.D. program struck a sensible balance between study and teaching—the fact that I could spend my first year engrossed in classes, without a teaching requirement, ultimately made me a stronger graduate student and a more thoughtful instructor.
My own focus of study was Renaissance Literature, and my dissertation was on tapestries in Shakespeare and Spenser. My first reader was Mary Baine Campbell, and my second Willam Flesch, and in their different ways they both encouraged me to trust my scholarly instincts and to think outside the box. They also helped me to make connections between my own personal experiences and my approach to literature.
Now I try to do the same for my own students—I teach Early Modern literature at Oregon State University, including a Shakespeare course that attracts students from a wide range of majors, from Forestry to Nuclear Engineering. OSU would seem to have nothing in common with Brandeis—it's a large land, sea, space, and sun-grant University in a rural area, and football is a huge deal here (Go Beavs!). However, I've found that some of the things I most love about OSU are things that I loved about Brandeis too, such as a rich creative writing culture and an undergraduate population who care deeply about social and environmental issues. I feel incredibly fortunate to be teaching in my home state, and although I could not have forseen it, I know my experiences at Brandeis are what made it possible.
Since 2008 I have written articles and book chapters on early modern textiles, Spenser, Shakespeare, and the teaching of early modern literature. My first book, Arras Hanging: The Textile That Determined Early Modern Literature and Drama, is forthcoming from the University of Delaware Press (2013).