Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (2013)
Professor Wai Chee Dimock is a leader of innovation in literary studies and global pedagogy. She was appointed as the William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University in 2003, a position she holds to this day.
A native Hong Konger, Professor Dimock read English at Harvard University and obtained her PhD from Yale University in 1982. She was tenured at Rutgers University in 1988 and published her first major book Empire for Liberty the following year. While at Brandeis University her growing international profile led to a promotion to Professor of English in 1994. Two years later, her third major book Residues of Justice: Literature, Law and Philosophy was acclaimed with an Honorable Mention for the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association. Since joining Yale University in 1997 two other books and an extensive corpus of essays have marked her as one of the most original and path-breaking contributors to literary studies. As reviews of her work note, Dimock is idiosyncratic, unorthodox, provocative, resilient, out of the box.
Today, Dimock’s innovation inspires us through its academic bravery and pursuit of the highest standards. To quote one of her sources, the Grateful Dead, “some folks look for answers, others look for fights”. Professor Dimock does both. Through intersecting influences from disparate sources including philosophy, law, media studies, postcolonial theory, and literature she answers questions about internationalizing American literature. Through striving for a defiantly transnational approach to scholarship she picks fights with national institutions and perceived wisdom. The results, seen most clearly in her fourth book, Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time, illustrates the potential of American Studies as an international field that is part of a larger global intellectual community. Fittingly, this work received an Honorable Mention for the Harry Levin Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association in 2007.
Professor Dimock’s pedagogy shows similar innovation. Her course on “Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner” was selected by Yale as one of their on-line Open Yale Courses to benefit a worldwide audience and help globalize on-line distance learning. She has also served as the advisor to the on-line series “Invitation to World Literature”, a multi-media portal which introduces American students to various literary genres across cultures and times.
Professor Dimock is a long-time friend of Hong Kong Baptist University who has brought and nurtured innovations in global pedagogy and in the Humanities. As Chairperson of the Faculty’s Academic Consultation Panel in 2009 and the Re-accreditation Panel of the Humanities Programme in 2011 she offered prescient advice on the re-development of the then Humanities Programme. Curriculum re-engineering and further investment laid a solid foundation for the evolution of the Programme into the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing in September 2012. In fact, her critical and supportive friendship stretches back to 2006 when she worked with colleagues in the Humanities and American Literature Group to brainstorm manuscripts and enhance the development of a positive research culture.
Chair, on behalf of the students, staff, and alumni of the Hong Kong Baptist University, it is a great privilege to present this citation for Professor Wai Chee Dimock, and to reflect publically upon her leadership in literary studies, global pedagogy, and the development of humanities at HKBU.