In Memoriam / Hazard Adams

Submitted by Henry J Laufenberg on
Professor Hazard Adams

Hazard Adams (MA ’49, PhD ’53) was a scholarly titan of literature and criticism who left a lasting impression on many lives.  Department chair Anis Bawarshi memorializes Adams, who joined the UW English Department as a professor in 1977.

It is with sadness that I convey news of Emeritus Professor Hazard Adams' passing on February 24th 2023. Professor Adams retired from the UW in 1997 after finishing the last twenty years of his career as a professor of English and Comparative Literature.

After completing his PhD from the University of Washington in 1953, Professor Adams became a leading scholar in the fields of English romanticism and literary theory and criticism.  He was a faculty member at University of Texas and Michigan State University before moving to the University of California, Irvine from 1964 to 1977, where he chaired the UC Irvine English Department as well as served as dean of the School of Humanities, vice chancellor of academic affairs, and co-founder and co-director of the School of Criticism and Theory.  In 1977, Professor Adams joined the faculty at the University of Washington as a professor of English and comparative literature. In 1988, he was named Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood professor of humanities in comparative literature.

A preeminent scholar of William Butler Yeats, William Blake, and the history of criticism, Professor Adams' work encompasses literary studies, critical theory, novels, poetry and memoir.  In addition to writing, editing, and co-editing over thirty books, Professor Adams has written for and edited a number of professional journals. His publications include: Critical Theory Since Plato (co-edited with emeritus professor Leroy Searle); Critical Theory Since 1965 (co-edited with emeritus professor Leroy Searle); The Interests of Criticism: An Introduction to Literary Theory; The Contexts of Poetry; The Book of Yeats's PoemsCritical Essays on William BlakeBlake and Yeats: The Contrary Vision; The Offense of PoetryPhilosophy of the Literary SymbolicThinking Through Blake: Essays in Literary ContrarietyBlake’s Margins: An Interpretive Study of the AnnotationsWilliam Blake on His Poetry and Painting: A Study of A Descriptive Catalogue, Other Prose Writings and Jerusalem; The Book of Yeats's Vision: Romantic Modernism and Antithetical TraditionAntithetical Essays in Literary Criticism and Liberal EducationWilliam Blake: A Reading of the Shorter PoemsThe Academic TribesJoyce Cary's Trilogies: Pursuit of the Particular Real; and Fiction As Process.

Professor Adams also published a memoir, Academic Child: A Memoir; novels (The Horses of InstructionHomeMany Pretty ToysThe Truth about Dragons: An Anti-Romance); and poetry collection (The Farm at Richwood: And Other Poems).

Professor Adams was named a Guggenheim Humanities fellow in 1974 and was a member of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. In recognition of his many accomplishments, Professor Adams was featured in the 44th through 70th editions of Who's Who in America and the 32nd and 33rd editions of Who's Who in the World.

As testament to Hazard Adams’ generosity touching lives across the academy and beyond, English Matters would like to relate two remembrances.  The first, from UW English Professor Emerita Sara Van Den Berg, reflects Dr. Adams collegiality as an administrator and mentor:

I was deeply saddened to get the new about Hazard Adams. He was a friend and mentor to me for many years, and I owed him a debt of gratitude when I became Chair of the English Department at Saint Louis University in 2000. His witty and wise comments often helped.  I remember especially his memoir about being an administrator, with its admonition that the first decision an administrator made was the most important. He was right, and I was glad I had that in mind.  He sent me wonderful grad students while I was on the UW faculty, and offered generous support when I was Associate Chair wrestling with plans to revamp the English major. Thanks to him, the faculty voted unanimously to approve the revised curriculum.

The second remembrance, forwarded by Professor Emeritus Charles Johnson, relays a warm tribute from department alumnus and president of Skidmore College Marc Conner (BA ’89 summa cum laude), whom Johnson and Adams shared as an undergraduate student.  Dr. Conner’s note appropriately encapsulates the positive effect that Dr. Adams had on so many students, at all levels, at UW and elsewhere:

As you are aware, Hazard was such a huge influence on me—indeed, you [Charles Johnson] and he are the two signal influences from my UW days, by far.  I took his Romantic Poetry class my senior year, fall term, and it was amazing—I remember more from that class than any other literature class I ever took.  And as you know, he then invited me to take his graduate seminar on Finnegans Wake, which prepared me for the PhD program at Princeton in ways no other experience could have.  He was brilliant and so learned and a magnificent lecturer and teacher.  His comments on my final Finnegans Wake paper encouraged me and continue to do so to this day.  He supported my grad school applications and was so generous with his time, even though I know he was as busy as can be.  And he had such a generous, insightful, and keen intellect. I’m really sorry he’s gone.

As are we all here in the UW English Department.  Rest in peace Professor Adams -- neither you nor your monumental contributions to the field of English will soon be forgotten.