Dana M. Polanichka
Assistant Professor of History
Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles
M.A., History, University of California, Los Angeles
A.B., Medieval Studies, Dartmouth College
Late antique and medieval cultural and political history, especially the intersection of politics and religion; conceptions of sacred space; gender, family, and marriage in the Carolingian world; popular religion and devotion; sacred kingship; medieval Christian art and architecture; popular culture.
My main research interest is medieval cultural history, particularly religion, gender, and architecture.
The specific questions driving my first major research project revolve around the visual, corporal, and ritual aspects of Christianity: What role did the visual and material play in medieval Christianity? How did corporeal performance affect belief and vice versa? In my doctoral dissertation, "Precious Stones, Living Temples: Sacred Space in Carolingian Churches, 751-877 CE" (UCLA, 2009), I undertook an extensive investigation of both visual and textual sources. I examined how sacred space developed metaphorically, architecturally, and ritually in the Frankish world of the eighth and ninth centuries. In approaching this topic, I analyzed and synthesized myriad texts: theological treatises, legal sources, episcopal statutes, biblical commentaries, liturgical directives, saints' lives, relic translations, a treatise on religious art, a monastic plan, art, and architecture, including more than twenty Carolingian and earlier Italian churches and monasteries. Examining the ways in which churches were conceived, constructed, and used, I demonstrate how theology, devotion, ritual, gender, architecture, and art intersected.
Currently I am revising my dissertation into a book manuscript. In expanding my project, I am now exploring the diverse functions and effects of churches in creating not only religious, but also social and political communities. In particular, my postdoctoral research considers how the ways in which Carolingian churches were conceived, created, and used affected the social and political workings of the Carolingian kingdom.
Additionally, I have made forays into a second research project on family and marriage at the Carolingian court, particularly during the reigns of Charlemagne (768-814 CE) and Louis the Pious (814-840 CE), but also extending into the civil wars immediately following Louis the Pious's death. My initial research, undertaken with a student researcher (Alex Cilley '14), has focused on reading Nithard's Histories through the lens of family. Two articles, one co-authored with Cilley, have recently been accepted for publication.
I enjoy teaching courses that span the ancient and medieval Western worlds, especially those focusing on gender, religion, and cultural and political history. All my classes encourage interdisciplinary exploration and the examination of myriad texts, both written and visual. Currently I am on sabbatical, but will return to the classroom in fall 2013.
My courses for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year are:
- 100. Ancient Western History (Fall 2013)
- 207. Medieval Europe (Spring 2014)
- 253. Popular Religion and Devotion in the Middle Ages (Spring 2014)
- 344. Sex, Gender, and the Body in the Medieval World (Fall 2013)
- 401. Senior Seminar (Fall 2013)
Other courses I have taught include:
- 298. Byzantine History
- 298. History of England
- 299. The Middle Ages in Popular Culture (independent study)
- 299. A Less Christian Middle Ages--Science, Magic & Demons (independent study)
- 343. Late Antiquity--Transformation and Migration
- 398. Carolingian History
- 399. Great Books of Medieval and Early Modern History (independent study)
- 399. Medieval Heresy (independent study)
In fall 2011, I began a three-year position as the Faculty in Residence in Beard Hall. In that role, I work with residential life staff to support the mission of Beard, which is an intellectually vibrant and diverse residential community that expands the educational experience beyond the classroom. Beginning in 2012-13, Beard became host to the residential component of the May Fellows Program, for which I serve as a member of the Planning Committee.
First author, with Alex Cilley '14, "The Very Personal History of Nithard: Family and Honor in the Carolingian World," Early Medieval Europe (forthcoming).
"'As a Brother Should Be': Siblings, Kinship, and Community in Carolingian Europe," in Kinship and Community: Social and Cultural History, ed. Jason Coy et al. (forthcoming).
"Transforming Space, (Per)forming Community: Church Consecration in Carolingian Europe," Viator 43, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 79-98.
"Another Word on Job-Market Etiquette," Perspectives in History 49, no. 9 (Dec. 2011): 28-29.
Getting an Academic Job in History. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 2009.
Undergraduate students are key participants in my varied research projects. Over the past three years, I have worked with five different history majors on a research project entitled "Women and Family, Love and Marriage at the Court of Charlemagne" (supported financially by a Wheaton Research Partnership).
In summer 2011, Christine Sobieck '12, Eben Diskin '12, and I received a Mars Collaborative Research Grant to explore Frankish royal women's participation in political and social activities at the Carolingian court. We are currently wrapping up revisions on a co-authored article and hope to submit it to a journal for consideration soon.
In summer 2012, Alex Cilley '14 and I received a Mellon Collaborative Research Grant to research and write an article entitled "The Very Personal of History of Nithard: Family and Honor in the Carolingian World." We presented an early version of this article, since accepted for publication, at the Dartmouth College Medieval Studies Seminar in September 2012.