Wallace W. Douglas, 80, of Evanston, professor emeritus of English and a pioneer in English education, died Jan. 30 .
Mr. Douglas, an acknowledged expert on the Romantic poets, died in a Park Ridge, Ill., nursing home of complications from Parkinson's disease, according to his cousin, Arlene Napolilli.
A native of Chicago, he received a bachelor's degree from Colgate University in 1936. He earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1937 and a doctorate from Harvard in 1945. He taught at Indiana University (1937-40) and Williams College (1942-44) before joining Northwestern in 1945, where he was promoted to full professor in 1964. Mr. Douglas also held an appointment as professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. He was named professor emeritus on his retirement in 1980.
As an expert on the Romantic poets, Mr. Douglas concentrated on William Wordsworth, whose complicated politics and business dealings he scrutinized in articles and whose poetry he considered from a psychoanalytic perspective in the book "Wordsworth: The Construction of a Personality" (Kent State University Press, 1968). A keen stylist in his own work, he was a co-editor of "The Critical Reader" (Norton, 1949; revised, 1962) and editor of "The Character of Prose" (Houghton Mifflin, 1959), books that offered models of good writing to university students.
Beginning in the late 1950s, issues related to English education became Mr. Douglas's chief intellectual concern. He published more than 20 articles and book chapters on composition theory and practice. He contributed significantly to public awareness of composition studies as a reputable, practical discipline.
As director of the Curriculum Center in English at Northwestern in the 1960s, he was influential in the training of students who went on to become leading teachers of English literature and writing. In 1966, he was a participant in the Dartmouth Conference, which called for major changes in the way English is taught in the nation's schools. Mr. Douglas served as a director of the National Council of Teachers of English, and was active in the College Conference on Composition and Communication, of which he was an officer from 1967 to 1970 and chair in 1969. He consulted and lectured widely in the on the policies and politics of English instruction. In articles that carefully delineated the history of education, he argued that a "composition crisis" has been declared in the U.S. with regularity since the late 1800s; he also focused spirited, incisive analysis on teaching methodologies that in his opinion employed gimmickry or ignored individual student needs.
Mr. Douglas received several prestigious awards, including an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship to study anthropological influences on literary theory and two Guggenheim Foundation fellowships -- one to continue his research on Wordsworth and the other to trace the history of the teaching of English composition in the U.S.
Other than Ms. Napolilli and other cousins, there are no immediate survivors.
Interment will be private. A memorial service will be held at Northwestern at a later date.
Memorial service for Wallace W. Douglas
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. April 21 in the Jeanne Vail Chapel on the Evanston campus for the late Wallace W. Douglas.
Mr. Douglas, professor emeritus of English and a pioneer in English education, died Jan. 30 at the age of 80. (Northwestern Observer, Feb. 6, 1995) He was an acknowledged expert on the Romantic poets.