Ulmer, William A. 1952-

views updated

Ulmer, William A. 1952-
(William Andrew Ulmer)


Born May 5, 1952, in Plainfield, NJ; married, 1988; children: two. Education: Gettysburg College, B.A., 1974; University of Chicago, M.A., 1975; University of Virginia, Ph.D., 1980.


Home—Tuscaloosa, AL. Office—English Department, University of Alabama, Box 870244, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0244. E-mail[email protected]


University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, department of English, began as assistant professor, became professor, 1980—.


Keats-Shelley Association, Wordsworth-Coleridge Association.


University of Alabama College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Teaching Fellowship; Alumni Association, Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award.


(Editor, with Marcel Smith) Ezra Pound: The Legacy of "Kulchur," University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1988.

Shelleyan Eros: The Rhetoric of Romantic Love, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1990.

The Christian Wordsworth, 1798-1805, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 2001.


William A. Ulmer is a professor of English whose primary area of interest is British romantic literature, with a particular focus on poetry of the period. His book Shelleyan Eros: The Rhetoric of Romantic Love, offers Ulmer's viewpoint on the de-constructive approach to the works of Percy Shelley. Shelley scholars who oppose this literary stance have suggested that the deconstructive view tends to formulate a conclusion and then search for aspects of Shelley's writings that may be bent to fit their hypothesis. P.M.S. Dawson, in a contribution for the Review of English Studies, discounts this argument, stating: "These are unjust suspicions, and Ulmer certainly does not use deconstruction to short-circuit the close critical examination of Shelley's texts. The accounts he offers are dense and resourceful, surprising the reader while carrying a large and often uncomfortable burden of conviction." Ulmer examines Shelley's dissatisfaction with and attempt to avoid the distortion of the meaning of his work by the reader, ultimately admitting Shelley was unable to overcome this inevitability, a reality Ulmer considers tragic.

The Christian Wordsworth, 1798-1805 examines the link between Wordsworth's poetry and his religious beliefs, particularly regarding his work at the turn of the nineteenth century. Ulmer proposes an alternate theory to the common belief that Wordsworth became more religious after his brother John drowned, instead suggesting that Wordsworth's faith was deepening all along, although not necessarily at a steady rate. He uses both nineteenth-century historical texts and Wordsworth's own writings to support his conjecture. He also proposes that Wordsworth's earlier poetry be reexamined in light of more theological parameters, as has become less popular in more recent critical studies. Rachel Crawford, in a review for Studies in Romanticism, pointed out that Ulmer limits his ideas of religion to Christianity, whereas Wordsworth experimented with other types of faith as well, but concluded that the book illustrates "that evangelical theory can challenge received positions in literary studies from an unlooked-for quarter." In a review for Christianity and Literature, David P. Haney called the book "a straight forward piece of historical and biographical scholarship that purports to set the record straight on Words-worth's religious views and their poetic expression in the period indicated in Ulmer's title." William Richey, writing for ANQ, remarked that "it is when Ulmer is… analyzing the religious dimension of specific texts, that the book is at its best." He added, however, that "despite the strength of Ulmer's individual readings—various aspects of his methodology are troubling. For one, I was surprised by how little theological context he chose to provide." He concluded: "Ulmer has unquestionably provided plenty to think about … and, in his own 'revisionary' but 'traditional' way, he has presented us with a very different Wordsworth than we are accustomed to seeing."



ANQ, winter, 2003, William Richey, review of The Christian Wordsworth, 1798-1805, p. 57.

Christianity and Literature, autumn, 2002, David P. Haney, review of The Christian Wordsworth, p. 93.

College English, October, 1992, Spencer Hall, "The Ideal, the Rhetorical, and the Erotic: A Poststructuralist Shelley," pp. 721-728.

Review of English Studies, May, 1994, P.M.S. Dawson, review of Shelleyan Eros: The Rhetoric of Romantic Love, p. 265.

South Atlantic Review, Nancy Moore Goslee, review of Shelleyan Eros, pp. 133-136.

Studies in Romanticism, fall, 2005, Rachel Crawford, review of The Christian Wordsworth, 1798-1805, p. 456.


University of Alabama Web site,http://uaops.ua.edu/ (November 16, 2006), faculty biography.*