William & Mary

Plumeri Award Impact: Adam Potkay

William & Mary English Professor Adam Potkay said a special senior seminar he taught last spring entitled “The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present” contained three of the “most exceptionally gifted students” he has worked with in more than two decades at the College.

Adam Potkay“They helped me as much as any faculty audience did to formulate and refine my insights into and arguments about sublimity in literature and I take it that along the way I helped them sharpen their own interpretative and argumentative skills, too,” said Potkay, who has been the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities since 2009.

Potkay partially credits his 2009 Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence for the course’s success. The award — and its $10,000 stipend — allowed Potkay to travel to universities across Europe for lectures, a conference and a workshop. Lecturing on the literary and aesthetic category of the sublime in Europe, he said, energized his teaching for the William & Mary course.

“The course went exceptionally well,” he said. “And I think that in part it was because it was an ongoing dialogue between William & Mary students, multi-disciplinary William & Mary faculty and my interlocutors at many other universities in the U.S. and U.K. — many of whom I wouldn’t have met were it not for Plumeri Award funds.”

The national and international travel made possible by the award , Potkay said, gave him a wide-ranging forum for discussion of arguments and ideas for several already published or forthcoming articles in The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English, The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present, The Blackwell Companion to Romantic Poetry and The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies.

Potkay, who specializes in 18th-century and Romantic literature, is the author of several books, including The Story of Joy, from the Bible to Late Romanticism (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which was co-winner of the prestigious Harry Levin Prize in 2009. The Levin Prize is awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association biannually to the best book in literary criticism and history. The Story of Joy has also been published in Romanian and Portuguese translations, and related articles have appeared in Polish.