Hidden Figures: Danielle Joyner

Professor Danielle Joyner.

Photo by Nidi Garcia.

In our day to day lives, we rarely encounter anything medieval. There is nothing that gives us reason to stop and think about the middle ages and how it applies to now unless we have taken a class in it. This fall, a hidden gem is coming to Lawrence, the study of Medieval Art and Manuscripts. This hidden gem is taught by no one other than our new Assistant Professor of Art History, Danielle Joyner.

Joyner finds medieval European art fascinating because “it is a thousand years of a time when there were huge social changes, all kinds of experimentation and people freaking out (or not), and the types of art that were produced in that era. The ideas they were grappling with still have an impact in our world today.”

She will be teaching Medieval Manuscripts this fall and is going to be involved with an exhibition of manuscripts in the Wriston Art Center Galleries taking place in the winter.

It is her first time teaching Freshman Studies as well. In the winter, she will teach Islamic Art and Architecture from the beginning of Islam till now and Early Medieval Art and Architecture.

“In future iterations, I think I am going to call it Kingdom, Empires and Vikings because that sounds more exciting. Hopefully, it will draw in more students,” Joyner commented.

In the spring she will teach the Italian Renaissance. It will explore if there was really a renaissance and whether it was all that different from the Middle Ages. As a medievalist, she doesn’t think so. “These are the questions that keep me awake at night, that darn Renaissance!” joked Joyner.

Joyner primarily works with medieval manuscripts. She enjoys the hands-on aspect of working with books that she cannot get from sculptures or art. She added, “Books are magical. You get to touch and read them just the way people used to page through them. I can pick up a book that is a thousand years old and can touch it and have this full experience of reading it, looking at the images, thinking about it the way it was meant to be used.”

Prior to working at Lawrence, when Joyner graduated from graduate school her first job was at the University of Notre Dame. After that, she worked in the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Joyner was in a doctoral program in University of Toronto at the Center for Medieval Studies for two years before she transferred to Harvard and had to start over with Art History instead.

“I really like Lawrence the best, because people have a sense of humor. I think from students to faculty to administration there is a deliberate cultivation of the joy and fun of learning. To be able to learn in joy is my idea of paradise,” Joyner elaborated.

Outside of Lawrence, Joyner enjoys different activities. She has a big old greyhound she likes to walk around the neighborhood. She likes pool and used to play often. She enjoys reading mysteries. “There’s a part of me that feels like maybe one day I can write a mystery!” added Joyner.

She watches good and bad TV. She enjoys music and playing the piano. She used to sing but does not sing very much these days. She likes to travel and explore new cultures and cuisines.

What students would not know is that she is the “sarcastic potty mouth” of her squad. Joyner’s inspiration comes from beauty in the natural world. She admires things that make her stop and appreciate the world in a way she otherwise would not have.

As I was about to close the interview, a book on Joyner’s desk caught my eye. Did I mention that she has a love for pop-up books? The book was titled Botecelli’s Bed and Breakfast.

When Joyner opened it to show me, each room had a compilation of different art pieces any art history fanatic would geek out over. It was a spontaneous and delightful way to end my meeting with her.

Humorous, quirky and creative are the words that describe Joyner and make her a hidden figure of note. Do not hesitate to stop by her office to say hello or engage in a conversation about medieval European art.