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Staff Profile

Professor Merle Williams

Position PERSONAL PROFESSOR
QualificationsBAHons, PhD
Phone 0117174119
Email Merle.Williams@wits.ac.za
Organisational Unit English

B rief Professional History

Merle Williams is a Professor of English. Her research interests include Augustan poetry; Romantic, nineteenth-century and Modernist poetry and fiction; American literature; theories of literature and relations between literature and philosophy. In the past, Williams has served as Head of the Department of English, Deputy Head of the School of Literature and Language Studies and Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the English Academy Review, an Editorial Associate of the Journal of Literary Studies and a member of other editorial boards. She has edited several special issues of journals and belongs to the team preparing the Complete Fiction of Henry James for Cambridge University Press. Williams is an active member of the International Henry James Society and the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, for which she often organises conference sessions. In this connection, she has been invited to the State University of New York at Stony Brook as a Research Associate. She is the local leader of a research and postgraduate teaching collaboration on American Literature with the University of Uppsala.

Teaching and Supervision

Merle Williams teaches principally in the areas of eighteenth-century, Romantic and Modernist poetry, as well as fiction from the nineteenth century to Postmodernism. Particular interests include the writing of Percy Bysshe Shelly and Henry James, as well as the relations between literature and philosophy (with a strong focus on the Continental tradition, especially the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida). Williams has begun to explore aspects of Trauma Studies. Her informal work in adult education has covered topics in contemporary Jewish philosophy and fiction. Williams has supervised Master's and Doctoral research within her fields of specialisation, in addition to inter-disciplinary projects on literature and the visual arts or theoretical psychology. She has designed postgraduate courses on the Theory of Literature, as well as participating in developing a Master's programme in English Education.

Selected Publications

Williams, M. A. (2010). Ethics. In D. McWhirter (Ed.), Henry James in context (pp. 161-70). New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, M. A (2009). Contemplating facts, studying ourselves: Aspects of Shelley's philosophical and religious prose. In Alan M. Weinberg and Timothy Webb (Eds.), The unfamiliar Shelley (pp. 199-220). Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Williams, M. A., &Polatinsky, S. (2009). Helene Cixous' Manna: The face of suffering and the poethics of border-crossing. English Studies in Africa, 52(2), 63-75.

Williams, M. A., & Polatinsky, S. (2009). Writing at its limits: Trauma theory in relation to Anne Michaels's Fugitive Pueces. English Studies in Africa, 52(1), 1-14.

Williams, M. A. (2008). The American spaces of Henry James. In Attie de Lange, Gail Fincham, Jeremy Hawthorn and Jakob Lothe (Eds), Literary landscapes from modernism to postcolonialism (pp. 19-37). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Williams, M. A. (2006). The future of the Humanities in South Africa: A view with a difference. Oxford Literary Review, 28, 176-90.

Williams, M. A. (Ed.) (2005). Temporal transitions: What was the past; what will be the future? Pretoria: UNISA Press.

Williams, M. A. (1993; reprinted 2009). Henry James and the philosophical novel: Being and seeing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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