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

Chair, Department of English


PhD, University of Oxford
MA, University of St. Andrews
BA Honours, 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.



‘ “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.


‘N-Grams’ in Digital Humanities for Literary Studies: Methods, Tools, and Practices (Coding for Humanists), edited by James O'Sullivan. Texas A&M University Press, 2020.


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


‘The “Oxford Dictionary” in T. S. Eliot’ in Notes & Queries 63.2 (2016): 293-296.


‘T. S. Eliot in The Oxford English Dictionary’ in Notes & Queries 63.2 (2016): 296-301.


‘Interview with Paul Muldoon’ The Life of Words (web blog) 2015.


All corruptible things: Geoffrey Hill's Etymological Crux’ in Modern Philology 112.3 (Feb, 2015): 522-553.


‘Method as Tautology in the Digital Humanities’ in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (formerly Literary and Linguistic Computing) 30.2 (2015): 280-293.


‘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.



Faculty Research Grant—‘OED3 Research Residency’ (2017-2018)
Faculty Research Grant—‘Poetry-Philology-Lexicography’ (2013-2014)
Travel Grant, for the Herrenhausen Conference,’ (Digital) Humanities Revisted’ The Volkswagen Foundation (2013)
Faculty Research Grant – Data-Mining the OED – St Jerome’s University (2012-2013)
Insight Development Grant: ‘Poetry and Contingency’ –Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and University of Waterloo (2011-2013)
University of Waterloo-SSHRC Seed Grant- ‘Applying search and stylometry techniques to OED2 and poetic corpora’ Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and University of Waterloo (2011-2012)
Faculty Research Grant ‘The Poet and the Dictionary’ – St Jerome’s University (2011-2012)


British Academy Post Doctoral Fellowship – The British Academy (2007-2010)
Junior Research Fellowship in English – Hertford College, Oxford (2007-2010)
FQRSC Bourse de doctorat/postdoctorat – Fonds Québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (2005-2007)
Overseas Research Scholarship – Universities UK (2002-2003)
Sir Harold Mitchell Research Scholarship – The University of St. Andrews (2002-2003)


Early Researcher Award—Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation with matching funds from University of Waterloo and St. Jerome’s University (2015-2020)
Advanced Collabrotive Support (ACS) Award—‘Matching OED sources to HathiTrust metadata’—HathiTrust Research Center (2017)
University of Waterloo-SSHRC 4A Award. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and University of Waterloo (2014-2015)
Faculty Merit Award for Exceptional Performance- St. Jerome's University (2010-2011)



ENGL 100B: Poetry

ENGL 200B: Survey of British Literature 2

ENGL 251: Literary Theory and Criticism

ENGL 260: Irish Literature

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

ENGL 735: Studies in Modern British Literature (Kathleen Jamie, Don Paterson, Paul Muldoon)

ENGL 785/795: Studies in Literary Criticism (Poetics of Etymology)


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 (2019-2021)

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)