Masthead image
Adam Potkay

Adam Potkay specializes in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature at the College, where he has taught since 1990; his appointment as William R. Kenan Professor of Humanties began in August 2009.  He was Chair of the department from July 2013 to June 2016.  During the 2018-2019 academic year he was the Laurence Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University.

Professor Potkay is the author of four monographs, most recently Wordsworth's Ethics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).  The Story of Joy from the Bible to Late Romanticism (Cambridge UP, 2007) won the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association for the best book in literary history and literary criticism, 2007-8; it has been translated into Romanian and Portuguese, and a portion of it has been published in Polish. 

Potkay's other books are The Passion for Happiness: Samuel Johnson and David Hume (Cornell UP, 2000) and The Fate of Eloquence in the Age of Hume (Cornell UP, 1994).  He is co-editor, with his former graduate student Sandra Burr, of Black Atlantic Writers of the Eighteenth Century: Living the New Exodus in England and the Americas (St. Martin's, 1995), and editor of Fielding's Joseph Andrews (Longman Cultural Edition, 2008).

Professor Potkay is currently writing a new monograph, Hope: A Literary and Philosophical History, and is an editor of the 5-volume Cambridge History of Rhetoric.

He has authored over fifty articles; recent pieces include "Lucretius, Englishman: Meter, Mortalism, and Love in Dryden's Translations from De Rerum Natura" (Eighteenth-Century Life, Sept. 2019); "Wordsworth's Hope" (The Wordsworth Circle, Summer 2019); "Rhetoric and Philosophy in the Eighteeenth Century," (The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, 2017); "Contested Emotions: Pity and Gratitude from the Stoics to Swift and Wordsworth" (PMLA, October 2015);  "The Humanities in the American University: A Belle Epoque?" (Ethos [Poland], 2015). Handbook of William Wordsworth (2015); and "The Virgilian Way from Milton to Wordsworth" in The Blackwell Companion to British Literature, vol. 3, 2014.   Several of his articles appear in pdf on his page for

     Professor Potkay served for many years as book-review editor of the journal Eighteenth-Century Life, on which he continues to serve as advisory editor.  He has also served on the editorial board of PMLA