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The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Papers of George Robert Carlsen
RG 99.0040
Collection Dates: 1941-1982
2 linear ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

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Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Acquisition and Processing Information: These materials were donated to the University Archives in July 2007 by Peter Carlsen.  Guide posted to the Internet in February 2010.

Photographs: None

George Robert Carlsen, n.d.

George Robert Carlsen, ca. 1961

Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs

Scope and Contents

The George Robert Carlsen papers document his twenty-five-year career in the English and education departments at the University of Iowa. The material includes correspondence, speeches, articles, reports, and clippings.  Lecture notes are included from his graduate course, “Literature for Adolescents,” offered in 1981.  The Brown-Carlsen Listening Comprehension Test he coauthored at the University of Texas is included.  National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention programs are represented from 1959 through 1963, as well as Carlsen's three-page report about his term on that organization's executive committee. 

These papers are organized in chronological order, with each line representing one folder, unless otherwise indicated.  

Biographical Note

George Robert Carlsen was born April 15, 1917, in Bozeman, Montana.  He received four degrees in English at the University of Minnesota, taking his B.A. in 1939 and his B.S. in 1940.  He taught at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1940 to 1942 before receiving his M.A. in 1943.  Carlsen took his Ph. D. in 1948 under the guidance of the highly regarded educator Dora V. Smith.

During 1942-1947, Carlsen was an instructor in English and education at the University of Minnesota.  He served as associate professor at the University of Colorado from 1947 to 1952.  From 1952 to 1958, he was associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Texas at Austin.  While at the University of Texas in 1953, Carlsen and James I. Brown of the University of Minnesota designed the Brown-Carlsen Listening Comprehension Test, an achievement test designed for secondary school students.

Carlsen joined the faculty of the State University of Iowa as professor of English in June 1958.  That fall he succeeded Raymond Kehl as head of English in University High School, a position he held until the school closed in 1972.  Until his retirement in 1982, he served concurrently as professor of English and education.  He researched methods of molding adolescents into avid readers.  Two graduate courses he taught were “Literature for Adolescents" and "Recent Developments in Adolescent Literature."  In 1982, the University of Iowa Foundation established an account for the G. Robert Carlsen Adolescent Literature Collection, housed in the University of Iowa Libraries' Special Collections Department.

Carlsen was recruited to serve in the National Council of Teachers of English in June 1955 as chair of the Senior High School Book List Committee.  He continued his service as the second vice-president in 1959, first vice-president in 1961, and president for 1961-1962. 

In other professional activities, Carlsen was editor of the Themes and Writers Series for McGraw Hill Publishing Company, as well as The English Journal.

He met Ruth Mary Christoffer at the University of Minnesota during the years they were students.  The couple married in 1941 and they had four children, Christopher, Peter, Kristin, and Jane.  Ruth was the author of eight children's books published during the 1950s through the1970s.  A bronze relief panel dedicated to her works may be found on the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk in Iowa City.  George Robert Carlsen died December 13, 2003.

[D. Anderson; 02/2010]

Related Materials

Folder, "Carlsen, George Robert," Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG 01.15.03)

Carlsen, George Robert. Brown-Carlsen Test of Listening Comprehension. World Publishing, 1952.

---. "The Dimensions of Literature." The English Journal (1952): 179-186.

---. Books and the Teenage Reader. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

---. Voices of Readers: How We Come to Love Books. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1988.

---. Literature IS--: Collected Essays. Johnson City, TN: Sabre Printers, 1994.

Box Contents List

Box 1

Education and positions

---. Education. n.d.

---. Graduate school, University of Minnesota. 1947.

---. Position at State University of Iowa. 1958.

---.Summer appointments, University of Texas. 1954-1957.


---. Bibliography.

---. Reprints and articles. 1946-1979.

---. NASSP Bulletin. 1955

---. "Let's Remember," Chicago Tribune Book Review section. 1964.

---. English Journal. 1982.

---. Papers. n.d.

---. Article "Round and Round the Garden" for The English Journal. December 1978.

---. Publishing companies


------. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. and World Book Company correspondence and contract. 1961.

------. McGraw-Hill publishing correspondence and contracts. 1962-1965.

------. Ronald Press Company contract. 1955; 1963.

------. Harper & Row Publishers correspondence. 1969-1981.

------. Bantam correspondence. 1980.

Standardized tests

---. The Hudelson Typical Composition Ability Scale, by Earl Hudelson, 1923.

---. Prose Appreciation Test, Senior High School, by Herbert A. Carroll, 1932.

---. Brown-Carlsen Listening Comprehension Test

------. 1953-1954

------. 1965

---. Tests for Adolescent Literature [scale]. n.d.


---. Fort Worth, 1954.

---. School Administration and Supervision annual conference, held at S.U.I. December 2, 1958.

---. Chicago, 1962.

---. Atlanta, 1962.

---. School Administration, 1965.

---. 1971.

---. FAME convention, October 8, 1976.

---. Newsome lecture, n.d.

---. "Literature in the Reading Program," Chicago, n.d.

---. San Francisco, n.d.

---. IRA, n.d.

---. Speeches, n.d.

Committees and Conventions

---. National Council of Teachers of English. Carlsen invited to join committee. 1955.


---. National Council of Teachers of English conventions [one folder]


------. "Basic Aims" pamphlet by chair Dora V. Smith. 1941.

------. "Basic Issues" pamphlet created from conferences held throughout 1958.

------. Denver, Colorado, convention. 1959.

------. NCTE 50th anniversary program. 1960.

------. Chamgaign, Illinois, convention. 1962.

------. Convention newsletter. 1962.

------. "Convention Concerns, 1963." Prepared by Carlsen.

------. "The Children's Literary Heritage." Dora V. Smith. Reprinted from Elementary English. November 1964.


---. National Council of Teachers of English reports


------. In-coming president Carlsen. November 1961.

------. "The State of the Profession," by president Carlsen. 1962.

------. Carlsen regarding his time as president. n.d.


---. NCTE JM Newsletter, for Junior Members published by NCTE.  Carlsen's reading list on last page. September 1969.


---. Serving on the Educational Consultant Board for Our Wonderful World. 1955.


---. Report of the Tri-county English Symposium. Redlands, California. May 22, 1965.


---. National Conference on Research in English. 1981.


---. Dora V. Smith, 1954-1969.

---. Congratulations, 1962-1980.

---. Aidon Chambers [England]. 1975-1980.

---. Students, 1981-1982.

---. General, 1959-1981.


---. "Literature for Adolescents." [two folders] 1981.

---. "Recent Developments in Adolescent Literature" seminar. Spring 1982.


---. Speeches Carlsen attended; one speech by Dora V. Smith. n.d.

---. Seminars Carlsen attended, 1950-1973


---. A.L.A.N. Awards. n.d.


---. Distinguished Service Award, National Council of Teachers of English. 1970.

Clippings. 1953-1988.

Writings by other authors

---. Donelson, Ken

---. Law, Richard.

---. Smith, Dora V.

---. Tovatt, Anthony L.

Box 2

Subject files

---. "Teaching in the United Kingdom" seminar by Carlsen. Summer 1971.


---. United Kingdom adolescent reading material. [two folders] 1967-1975.


Research and writing ideas. n.d.

Book lists. 1960s-1970s.

Subject files of articles and notes [thirteen folders]