About Us
David-Antoine Williams
David-Antoine Williams
Department of English

Chair, Department of English


DPhil, University of Oxford
MA, University of St. Andrews
AB, Harvard University




SH 2208
D-A Williams photo

My professional interest in twentieth century poetry was lit in my third year of university, in Helen Vendler’s course on Seamus Heaney. This led to a senior thesis on Heaney’s “poetic theory,” an idea I came back to when I returned to academia after a short stint working for an internet start-up in London, England. I completed a research MPhil on Heaney and T. S. Eliot at the University of St. Andrews, on the North Sea coast of Scotland, and then moved on to Balliol College, Oxford to write a doctoral thesis on poetry and ethics in the twentieth century, centering on the verse and prose works of Heaney, the Russian and (latterly) American poet Joseph Brodsky, and the English poet Geoffrey Hill. After a short time at the University of York (England), I came back to Oxford on a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, this time to Hertford College, a pretty little place with a serene quad and a venetianesque bridge, situated just across from Radcliffe Square and the Bodleian Library. I came home to Canada in 2010 to teach modern and contemporary literature of the British Isles.


My current research is on contemporary British and Irish poetry, etymology, dictionary studies (primarily the Oxford English Dictionary), and the Digital Humanities. I regularly post about work in progress on my research blog.


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.


The Life of Words: Etymology and Modern Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.


Defending Poetry: Art and Ethics in Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney, and Geoffrey Hill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.



‘Women’s Words and the Words of Women in the Oxford English Dictionary’ in Review of English Studies. June 2023. [https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgad052]


‘ “Alien” vs. Editor: World English in the Oxford English Dictionary; Policies, Practices, and Outcomes 1884–2020’ in International Journal of Lexicography Vol. 34.1 (2021): 39-65.


‘Poetry in the Oxford English Dictionary: A Quantitative Profile’ in Poetry and the Dictionary, edited by Andrew Blades and Piers Pennington. Liverpool University Press, 2020: 57-80.


‘Getting More out of the Oxford English Dictionary (by Putting More In)’ in Dictionaries 38.2 (2017): 106-113.


‘Poetic Antagonyms’ in The Comparatist 37 (May, 2013): 169-85.


‘Tête-à-tête, Face-à-face : Brodsky, Levinas, and the Ethics of Poetry’ in Poetics Today 30.2 (2009): 207-35.


Insight Grant – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2022-2027)

Early Researcher Award – Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation with matching funds from University of Waterloo and St. Jerome's University (2015-2022)

Insight Development Grant: ‘Poetry and Contingency’ – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and University of Waterloo (2011-2013)

Faculty Research Grants (2011, 2013, 2017)


British Academy Post Doctoral Fellowship – The British Academy (2007-2010)
Junior Research Fellowship in English – Hertford College, Oxford (2007-2010)


ENGL 100B: Poetry

ENGL 200B: Survey of British Literature 2

ENGL 251: Literary Theory and Criticism

ENGL 460C: Literature of the Postwar Period in the United Kingdom and Ireland

ENGL 460D: Literature of the Contemporary in the United Kingdom and Ireland

ENGL 470B: History of Literary Criticism


Poetry and/or poetics of the last hundred years or so.


Please contact Professor Williams if you are a prospective and/or current graduate student wanting to pursue advanced research in some aspect of this area.


The content that follows may only represent a portion of the Faculty member’s work.


St Jerome’s University

Chair, Department of English (2022-2024)

Committee on Research and Scholarship (2014-2015, 2020-2022)

Renewal, Tenure, and Promotions Committee (2019-2022)

Grievance Officer, Academic Staff Association (2019-2023)

Interim Grievance Officer, Academic Staff Association (2016-2017)

Finance Committee (2016-2018)


University of Waterloo

English Graduate Studies Committee (2014-2016, 2018-2021)

University Undergraduate Affairs Groups (UGAG), representing St. Jerome's University (2012-2014)