Elder James Olson (March 9, 1909 – July 25, 1992) was an American poet, teacher and literary critic.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Carl Schurz High School. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, he published a volume of poetry. Thereafter, he would publish multiple volumes of poetry and literary criticism during his career, for which he received multiple awards. After graduating with a BA in 1934, he was awarded an MA from the University of Chicago in 1935. The same year he received a Friends of Literature award. In 1937, he married Ann Elisabeth Jones and the couple would have two children (Ann and Elder). He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1938 from the University of Chicago with the dissertation, General Prosody, Rhythmis, Metric, Harmonic.
He became a founder and leading figure of the so-called "Chicago school" of literary criticism. In 1942, he started teaching at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in the Department of English. He divorced Ann Elisabeth Jones then married Geraldine Louise Hays in 1948, and they would have children Olivia and Shelley. In 1955 he was presented with the Poetry Society of America Chap-book Award. He gained full professorship in 1955 and was named Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English in 1973. During his career he traveled abroad several times as a visiting professor, but he remained a member of the university faculty until his retirement in 1977.
He died of pneumonia in Albuquerque, N. M. at the age of 83.