Williams's research and teaching interests are in 19th century American literature and 20th/21st century fiction. His dissertation focused on James Fenimore Cooper's religious interests, and he spent most of the 1980s editing Cooper's Notions of the Americans for the State University of New York Press.
Williams's book on 19th-century American poet Julia Ward Howe, Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe, was published in 1999 by the University of Massachusetts Press. His reconstruction of Howe's never-before-published Laurence manuscript appeared in 2004 from the University of Nebraska Press, titled The Hermaphrodite. He and Renee Bergland of Simmons College have recently completed an essay collection, Philosophies of Sex, focused on The Hermaphrodite (Ohio State University Press, 2012).
Alcott, Julia Ward Howe, and the Ways Logs Turn to Ashes, presented at the American Literature Association conference, San Francisco, May 2012.
What Margaret Thought of George, presented at the Modern Language Association conference, Seattle, January 2012.
Putting The Hermaphrodite Together, presented at the national Society for the Study of American Women Writers conference, Philadelphia, October 2009.
George Sand, Religieuse: The French Roots of Julia Ward Howe’s Conservatism, presented at the national American Studies Association conference, Philadelphia, October 2007
EMBEDDING THE HUMANITIES IN CROSS-DISCIPLINARY GENERAL EDUCATION COURSES, with Michael O'Rourke and Jean Henscheid; published in Journal of General Education (2009). This paper emerged from a presentation at the International Symposium on New Directions in the Humanities, Columbia University, February 2007.
George Sand and Margaret Fuller: "Expansive Fellowship," presented at the Transatlanticism in American Literature conference, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, July 2006.
"The cruelest enemy of
beauty": Sand's Gabriel, Howe's Laurence, presented at the American
Literature Association Conference, Boston, May 2005
“Myself is all my grief”: Julia Ward Howe and Gender Ambiguity, presented at the American Literature Association Conference, San Francisco, May 2004
Julia Ward Howe’s Hermaphrodite Novel: Conceptualizing Gender Ambiguity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America, presented at the British Association of American Studies Conference, Manchester, UK, April 2004
Ambiguous Undulations: Some 20th Century Acts of Affirmation, presented at the Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, Spokane, April 2002
Hermaphroditism, Androgyny, and the Swedenborgian Integral Soul: Functions of the Man-Woman Protagonist in Julia Ward Howe’s "Laurence" Manuscript presented at the Society for the Study of American Women Writers International Conference, San Antonio, Texas, February 2001
Stanton/Anthony vs. Howe/Higginson: The (Not So) Polite Struggle For Narrative Control of The Woman Suffrage Movement, presented at the Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, Lincoln City, OR, April 1999
Julia Ward Howe's (Auto)biography of Margaret Fuller, invited address presented at a symposium on Howe sponsored by ESQ and Washington State University, Pullman, WA, November 1998.