- In Memoriam
Joseph A. Kestner, an important figure in the early years of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, died on 24 August 2015, at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was seventy-one. He was an internationally recognized scholar of Victorian literature and art, adventure and detective fiction, and the interdisciplinary ties among the novel, film, painting, and opera. During his thirty-seven years with the University of Tulsa, where he was McFarlin Professor of English and Professor of Film Studies, he inspired colleagues and students with his learning, wit, and joie de vivre. His remarkable gifts for lecturing and mentoring earned him numerous teaching awards, including Oklahoma Professor of the Year, given by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the University of Tulsa’s prestigious Outstanding Teacher Award. His unbounded vitality and generosity made him a beloved teacher, colleague, friend, and community leader.
An untiring scholar, Kestner published more than a hundred books, articles, and essays, and he lectured frequently in the United States and abroad. With the rare ability to turn old and new enthusiasms into lasting scholarly contributions, he wrote and spoke prolifically on topics as diverse as Jane Austen, Pre-Raphaelite painting, narrative theory, Italian and German opera, James Joyce, Sherlock Holmes, and the British female detective. He had the unique capacity to teach and delight readers of all kinds; whether appearing in Papers on Language and Literature or in Opera News, his articles brought freshness and insight to his chosen subject. He was invited to lecture at many prestigious international venues, including the City Art Gallery in Leeds and the Tate Gallery in London. At the height of his career as a literary scholar, he decided to pursue his passion for film and film genres and was instrumental in establishing the Film Studies major and department at the University of Tulsa. This endeavor provided him with new outlets for mentoring. In addition to preparing numerous doctoral candidates for careers in literature departments, he devoted himself to helping undergraduates obtain internships and other positions in film and related professions.
Born in Horton, Kansas, and raised in Albany, New York, Kestner earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of New York, Albany, and his Master of Arts and Doctorate from Columbia University, where he devoted equal study to English literature and to classical languages and culture. After appointments at Princeton University and the City University of New York, he came to the University of Tulsa in 1978 and immediately established himself as a dynamic scholar, teacher, and dissertation advisor. His teaching style combined profound learning, irresistible wit and [End Page 21] entertainment, and a booming voice with which he captivated audiences numbering in the hundreds as well as small graduate seminars. One could easily audit any of his courses by simply standing outside the closed door of his classroom. He exuded what his students called “Kestnerian energy,” and everyone who knew him profited from that exuberance.
Kestner was as beloved in the Tulsa community as he was at the University of Tulsa. For many years, he served on the Tulsa Opera Board and acted in numerous capacities with that organization, including as Vice-President for Production. He played significant roles in Tulsa’s Cinema Arts Foundation, the Tulsa Public Library, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Puccini Society, and other organizations. His immensely popular lectures consistently drew crowds. A noted scholar of the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, Kestner was a favorite speaker at events of the Afghanistan Perceivers of Oklahoma, an organization of Holmes enthusiasts. He was scheduled to give a talk before the Baker Street Irregulars, a prestigious international Holmes society, in New York in January 2016. He was married to Anna Norberg, a concert pianist and long-time faculty member in the University of Tulsa’s School of Music.
Kestner was a vital supporter and frequent contributor to two academic journals published by the University of Tulsa—Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and the James Joyce Quarterly. His role in sustaining Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature from 1986 to 1988, when the journal was between editors, was pivotal. As chair of the Department of English, he encouraged his...