Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy

August 25, 2015

R.I.P. Dr. Kestner

Filed under: General — Vadasmaker @ 4:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The world lost a brilliant scholar yesterday.

Dr. Joseph Kestner was my all-time favorite professor at the University of Tulsa. I was there for eight semesters, and I was in his class for seven of them. He wasn’t teaching anything I needed during the last semester of my Ph.D. course work, and I suffered acute Kestner-withdrawal.

Everybody knew when Dr. Kestner was in the building. He didn’t lecture. He thundered, and his voice filled Zink Hall, even with the seminar room door closed, and if you thought you were going to get anything accomplished in your office while his class was in session, you were sorely mistaken.

The characteristics that set him apart from the rest of us mere mortals are myriad. He was erudite, sophisticated, and bombastic. He was a walking exclamation point. Nothing was ever just ok. It was fabulous! Extraordinary! Beyond belief! When he returned my papers and exams, they were covered with scribbles in his trademark green ink. Admonitions of “Detail, Carol! Detail!” and “Clarity!” were there in abundance, but so were comments like “Your prose is a pleasure to read!” and “Brilliant observation!”

Joe Kestner showed me a world I would never have thought to visit on my own. Through sheer exuberance and passionate teaching, he made me love the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and the Pre-Raphaelites. He introduced me to Victorian culture, Victorian thought, Victorian art, and Victorian history. To this day, the only historical date I can give you off the top of my head is Queen Victoria’s reign—1837-1901. Well, that and the date of the last Jon Stewart show. I can’t discuss that though. Too soon.

His strong opinions on film and literature irked more than a few people—I still remember someone asking if he’d seen Angela’s Ashes yet. He waved his hand dismissively. “Oh!” he bellowed. “The Irish! Dirt dirt dirt! Poor poor poor!” I thought it was funny. Some people—not so much, but the strength and vigor of those opinions made me think harder about the things I thought I knew and showed me that I could always discover another facet if I just dug a little deeper.

I hope there’s some kind of afterlife, and if there is, I hope Dr. Kestner is there. I hope he’s bellowing about the homo-sociality of Sherlock and Watson, Rossetti’s penchant for using hookers as models, or the triangulation of the relationship between Pip, Clara, and Herbert Great Expectations. You know–just irritating the shit out of the people in the room next door.



  1. Carol…what a great tribute!


    Comment by Lily — August 25, 2015 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  2. I am sorry for your loss Carol!


    Comment by pony-tale — August 26, 2015 @ 8:35 am | Reply

  3. What a touching description of a great person! I only got to take a few classes with Dr. Kestner while I did my MA at TU, but I treasure them.


    Comment by ponderingvictorianmadnessJonathan — August 26, 2015 @ 10:50 am | Reply

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