Joy is an experience of reunion or fulfilment, of desire at least temporarily laid to rest, of a good thing that comes to pass or seems sure to happen soon. In this wide-ranging and highly original book Adam Potkay explores the concept of joy, distinguishing it from related concepts such as happiness and ecstasy. He goes on to trace the literary and intellectual history of joy in the Western tradition, from Aristotle, the Bible and Provencal troubadours through contemporary culture, centring on British and German works from the Reformation through Romanticism. Describing the complex interconnections between literary art, ethics, and religion, Potkay offers fresh readings of Spenser, Shakespeare, Fielding, Schiller, English Romantic poets, Wilde and Yeats. Winner of the 2009 Harry Levin prize, The Story of Joy will be of special interest to scholars of the Renaissance to the late Romantic period, but will also appeal to readers interested in the changing perceptions of joy over time.
Adam Potkay is Professor of English at the College of William and Mary, Virginia.
Winner of American Comparative Literature Association's Harry Levin Prize 2009.