William Veeder

Professor Emeritus
Walker 418
Research Interests: 19th/20th Century American and British Literature | Victorian Literature | The Novel

In the classroom and on paper, I am working to integrate text and context. The pleasures of reading remain paramount for me. Now that the reaction against New Criticism has crested, I am exploring how to supplement readerly pleasures with the intricate, amplifying elements to be engaged through contextual study, and through psychoanalytic and gender theories. Whether classroom is focusing on American and British Gothic of the Nineteenth Century (Eng. 45100, 41800) or on contemporary fiction (Eng. 247, 270, 499) or on specific figures such as Henry James (Eng. 223) or Ambrose Bierce (Eng. 298), I work from James' wonderful dictum "in the arts feeling is always meaning." Each student's individual experience of the text is what I emphasize: our goal is not to agree but to define what we share and where we disagree. Respect for affective differences, rather than homage to a fashionable ideology or methodology, is the goal of my teaching. It is also my goal when I work with a student's writing. Attention to every aspect of the prose (from diction and syntax to structure of argument) is crucial because whatever students do upon leaving the Quads, they will have to be persuasive; they will feel fulfilled only if they can bring their intelligence and learning to bear on a problem that captures them. My lecturing and publishing have ever sought to explore how text and context interact. With Mary Shelley, Poe, J. S. LeFanu, Robert Louis Stevenson, James, Stoker, Faulkner, Nabokov, Flannery O'Connor, Witold Gombrowitz, Carlos Fuentes, John Hawkes, Cormac McCarthy, the challenge is always to explain how content is accessed most richly through form.

Select Publications

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: After One Hundred Years. Edited by William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch. University of Chicago Press, 1988.
  • Mary Shelley & Frankenstein: the Fate of Androgyny. University of Chicago Press, 1986.
  • The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883. Elizabeth K. Helsinger, Robin Lauterbach Sheets, William Veeder. University of Chicago Press, 1989, c1983.
  • Henry James, the Lessons of the Master: Popular Fiction and Personal Style in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
  • Essays on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Anglo-American gothic texts; psychoanalysis; gender issues; popular culture.

Courses Taught

2015-16 courses: Autumn 2015, 20th Century American Short Fiction (undergraduate).

Undergraduate: Henry James: The Fiction of Crisis; Introduction to Fiction: The Short Story; Anglo American Gothic Fiction in the Nineteenth Century; Fiction of Three Americas.