Born in Exeter, England during an aerial bombardment of World War II, you have pursued an intellectual life focused on the more genteel, but no less passionate, cultural currents of Europe. A specialist in French and Italian literature and criticism of the Renaissance, you have lectured broadly on these subjects throughout the U.S. and Europe and led seminars at the Folger Institute, the Sorbonne, and Oxford. You have won fellowships from The Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies. You edited The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Volume III: The Renaissance, which commentators called “brilliant” and even “an occasion for great rejoicing.” It has now been translated into Arabic. To Williams you have brought deeply European sensibilities, in teaching such courses as “Literary Masterpieces of the Renaissance,” in thoughtfully mentoring countless colleagues, and in chairing the Romance Languages Department and directing the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Underneath all this erudition has been barely hidden a love of popular culture. Through all of this, however, you have embodied the thought of Montaigne that “there is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge.”
I hereby declare you Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of International Studies, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 3, 2012