The Joanne T. Dempsey Memorial Lecture Series

In memory of the late USD Professor of English Joanne Dempsey, this biannual lecture series brings literary scholars to the University of San Diego community.

About Joanne T. Dempsey

Joanne Thérèse Dempsey was born in Rockville Centre, New York, on December 26, 1946, and died in San Diego, California, on November 29, 1990. She graduated from Newton College of the Sacred Heart in 1968 and received her PhD in English and American Literature from Harvard University, with a dissertation on Milton's Paradise Regained. She taught at the University of San Diego from 1980 until her death in 1990.

N. Katherine Hayles

The 2019 Joanne T. Dempsey Memorial Lecture

"Can Computers Create Meaning?: A Cyber/Bio/Semiotic Perspective"
by N. Katherine Hayles, PhD
Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 6 p.m. 
Warren Auditorium, Mother Rosalie Hill Hall

A world-renowned scholar and pioneering figure in the Digital Humanities, Dr. N. Katherine Hayles is James B. Duke Professor Emerita of Literature at Duke University and Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA. She has published a wide array of influential texts that draw together contemporary literary theory and scientific models as a way to delve into the relations of literature, science, and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. Her theorization of the posthuman subject, "embodiment," digital and electronic literature, and cybernetics in particular has garnered wide critical acclaim. Her major publications include Writing Machines (2002), My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (2005), Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008), How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis  (2012), and, most recently, Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious (2017). She is also the recipient of the prestigious René Wellek Prize for Best Book in Literary Theory (How We Became Posthuman [1999]) as well as the Susanne K. Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship (Writing Machines [2002]).

This Joanne T. Dempsey Memorial Lecture is presented in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Colloquia Series, and co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Humanities Center.

Free and open to the public. For driving directions, visit

Past Lecturers' Biographies:


Frits van Oostrom, one of Europe's most distinguished scholars, Prof. van Oostrom is University Professor of the Humanities at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. He has spoken and published widely on medieval literature and culture for both academic and popular audiences. In 1995, he was awarded the Spinoza Prize, and in 1999 he held the prestigious Erasmus Chair at Harvard University. In 2004-2005, he was a fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and from 2005 to 2008, he served as President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prof. van Oostrom's most recent book, Wereld in WoordenWorld into Words—is a bestseller in The Netherlands and will soon be translated into English. Prof. van Oostrom's talk, titled "The Devotio Moderna: Then and Now," which is today best known for its influence on Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, originated in the Low Countries in the 14th century as a movement for Catholic religious reform. Fundamentally, the Devotio Moderna was a highly innovative movement that advocated for a Christian life based upon the virtues of humility and simplicity. In this presentation, Frits van Oostrom will focus on three particular aspects of the Devotio Moderna --its textual culture, its focus on organisation, and its attitude towards the priesthood—and the ways that these features emerge today in contemporary culture. Each of these features displays a poignant modernity for those who, like Frits van Oostrom, believe that history provokes us to reflect upon the present as well as the past.


Joseph Jonghyun Jeon is Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies at Pomona College. He is the author ofRacial Things, Racial Forms: Objecthood in Avant-Garde Asian American Poetry (Iowa, 2012). He is currently at work on a book entitled Neoliberal Forms: Korea's IMF Cinema at the Twilight of US Hegemony, which studies the great moment of film that emerges in the wake of the worst economic crisis in South Korean history. Professor Jeon taught at the University of San Diego for 10 years (2001-2011). Dr. Jeon's talk, titled "Breakfast at Kuniyoshi's: Degenerative Genealogy and Postracial Racial Form," traces the obscured racial politics in Mickey Rooney's portrayal of an Asian American painter in Blake Edward's 1962 adaptation of Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's. Few realize that Rooney's offensive yellowface caricature and stereotypical excesses were based on Yasuo Kuniyoshi, one of the most famous painters in the US during the first half of the 20th century, whose reputation vanished so rapidly that he is scarcely remembered. Through an analysis of visual and verbal texts that all revolve around Breakfast at Tiffany's, this talk will explore the development of what we now call "the postracial" by investigating how racial history vanishes and gives way to racial signification. Hidden in this history is a forgotten reason to regard Rooney's portrayal as even more offensive than viewers may have already imagined.


David Staines, a writer, critic, professor, and editor who helped establish the Giller Prize and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, has been named to the Order of Ontario. Professor Staines currently teaches English Literature at the University of Ottawa. His fields of interest are Canadian literature, Medieval literature, and Victorian poetry. He has also taught at Harvard, the University of Prince Edward Island, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). Staines has PhD & MA degrees from Harvard University, and a BA from the University of Toronto. He has ongoing research on essays in Canadian literature, and cyclic forms in medieval art and literature. Staines has served as general editor of McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library series since 1988, and has also edited books on Stephen Leacock, Margaret Laurence, Marshall McLuhan, and Northrop Frye.Professor David Staines was awarded the 2011 Order of Ontario. Selected publications: Staines, David, co-editor, Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Me, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2010; and Staines, David, translator, The Complete Romances of Chrétien de Troyes, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.


Linda Troost is professor and chair of English at Washington & Jefferson College in western Pennsylvania. She received her degrees from Smith College and the University of Pennsylvania and teaches British literature of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, British drama, editing and desktop publishing, and theory and criticism. She is active in the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Jane Austen Society of North American, and the International Robin Hood Society. For four years she served as secretary/treasurer of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. In 2007-08, she held a visiting research fellowship from the Institute of English Studies of the University of London. She has published many essays and reviews and is founding editor of Eighteenth-Century Women, a hardcover serial from AMS Press. Most notably, she is the editor, along with her husband Sayre Greenfield, of Jane Austen in Hollywood, the first scholarly exploration of the Austen film phenomenon that started in the 1990s. She has lectured on three continents on Jane Austen and on Austen film adaptations. Listen to the interview with Linda Troost on KPBS radio.

Other Past Lecturers:

Past Joanne T. Dempsey Memorial Lecturers
Year Lecturer
2008 Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University
2005 Richard Strier, University of Chicago
2003 Andrew Hadfield, University of Wales
2001 Joseph Wittreich, The Graduate School, City University of New York
1999 Diana Maddox, The Old Globe Theatre
1997 William Alfred, Harvard University