Students making their schedules for next semester were perplexed when they could not find Professor William A. Walling in the course listings. Eventually, he broke the news: after teaching at Rutgers for more than forty years, Professor Walling quietly retired this spring.
As a young man, he was a voracious reader. Though he immersed himself in the classics of literature, he didn’t yet imagine himself as a professor. He began college later in life than many, taking night classes at Brooklyn College and eventually earning a degree in History. He then worked for the Social Security office and later Proctor and Gamble, often traveling for business. Reading the works of Proust while traveling the country inspired him to study literature as a profession, and soon after he attended N.Y.U. for graduate school, where he specialized in English Romanticism and William Wordsworth.
The English Department of University College at Rutgers hired him to teach in 1965, and he chaired that department from 1972 to 1977, also chairing the Division of the Humanities for UC from 1975 to 1977. After the separate English departments merged in 1981, Professor Walling routinely served on several important committees for the unified Rutgers English. Many of his junior colleagues remember him as a generous and encouraging mentor, a learned and welcoming presence within a large and busy department.
Professor Walling has published articles in diverse fields, including Romantic poetry and prose but also world cinema, jazz, painting, and the popular fiction of John le Carre, and he co-edited an influential volume of essays on literature and art called Images of Romanticism: Verbal and Visual Affinities. In book form, he published a guide to the life and works of Mary Shelley as a starting point for both scholars and teachers. He is currently working on two new books, one a literary and cultural analysis of self-definition in the Romantic era, and the other a novel.
As a teacher, Professor Walling was always experimenting and creating new courses. “I wanted to see students come alive in response to the material,” he says, an approach that led him to be the first to introduce Film Studies into the English curriculum, but also led him to teach courses on the complex twentieth-century poet Wallace Stevens, and on Shakespeare. Students often took several courses with him as undergraduates and signed up for whatever he was teaching, trusting in his ability to convey the joy of discovering an author through reading.
Professor Walling has a great talent for sharing his love of literature with those around him, from his teaching to his engaging and literate conversational style to his generous habit of giving away books he has enjoyed so others can read them. We wish him all the best for his retirement: abundant time to write, fascinating books to read, and good company to keep.