Dana M. Polanichka

Professor of History
Chair of History Department
Wheaton in Bhutan Program Coordinator


Phone: 508-286-3672

Fax: 508-286-3640


Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles
M.A., History, University of California, Los Angeles
A.B., Medieval Studies, Dartmouth College


Main Interests

Late antique, medieval, and early modern European political and cultural history, especially gender, sexuality, and the conception of scandal at the Carolingian court.

Other Interests

In my professional life, I am committed to supporting faculty at Wheaton and other institutions of higher education in their research and professional development.

In my personal life, I enjoy traveling the world, running and hiking, cooking, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and, of course, reading. I have a particular affection for the Himalayan, Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan where I recently lived for two years and where I am currently spending Fall 2023 with six Wheaton students on a study-abroad semester.

I am a complete bibliophile. I am always excited to talk to students, colleagues, friends, and (honestly) strangers about books, particularly classic and contemporary novels–and I recently started a book club with Wheaton History alumni!

Originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, I consider NEPA (northeastern Pennsylvania) my home.


Aubrey Westfall and Dana M. Polanichka, “Revitalizing Writing Retreats,” Inside Higher Ed, May 16, 2023.

Dana M. Polanichka and Aubrey Westfall, “Why Your College Needs a Faculty Writing Room,” Chronicle of Higher Education (February 24, 2023).

“Separately Together: Rethinking Our Image of the Solitary Historian,” Perspectives on History (February 2023): 16–18.

Aubrey Westfall and Dana M. Polanichka, “Faculty Research Success on a Shoestring,” Inside Higher Ed, August 2, 2022.

Courtney M. Booker, Hans Hummer, and Dana M. Polanichka, eds., Visions of Medieval Studies in North America and Europe: Studies on Cultural Identity and Power, Cursor 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022).

“‘The Crumbs of the Crumbs’: Dhuoda and the Mid-Ninth-Century Carolingian Church,” in Visions of Medieval Studies in North America and Europe: Studies on Cultural Identity and Power, ed. Booker, Hummer, and Polanichka, Cursor 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022).

“The Carolingian Erotic Hunt: Staging Gender and Space in Early-Ninth-Century Verse,” Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 56, no. 2 (2021): 5–47.

“Maternity and Spiritual Progression in Dhuoda’s Liber manualis (840s CE),” Mediaevalia 41 (2020): 7–41.

‘Quasi per speculum’: Vision, vigilance and the natural world in Dhuoda’s Liber manualis,” Journal of Medieval History 46, no 1 (2020): 1–22.

First author with Carly Lewis (Wheaton ’18), Casey E. Smith (Wheaton ’20), Allison K. Meyette (Wheaton ’18), and Briana Gausland (Wheaton ’20), “Slandered and Expelled: Female Monastic Exile in Carolingian Europe, c. 814 CE,” Rig Tshoel 3, no. 1 (2020): 59–71.

“An Expelled Princess, a Slandered Empress, and an Abandoned Wife,” Medieval Prosopography 35 (2020): 23–26.

“The Glory of the Son: Romantic, Grotesque, and Comic Medievalism in the Musical Pippin,The Mediaeval Journal 9, no. 2 (2019): 9–39.

“‘My Temple Should Be a House of Prayer’: The Use and Misuse of Carolingian Churches,” Church History 87, no. 2 (June 2018): 371–98.

“‘As a Brother Should Be’: Siblings, Kinship, and Community in Carolingian Europe,” in Kinship and Community: Social and Cultural History, ed. Jason Coy, Ben Marschke, Jared Poley, and Claudia Verhoeven, 23–36 (New York: Berghahn, 2015).

First author, with Alex Cilley (Wheaton ’14), “The Very Personal History of Nithard: Family and Honor in the Carolingian World,” Early Medieval Europe 22, no. 2 (2014): 171–200.

“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.

Teaching Interests

I enjoy teaching courses that span the ancient, medieval, and early modern Western worlds, especially those focusing on religion, gender, and all forms of intellectual, cultural, and political history. All my classes encourage interdisciplinary exploration and the examination of myriad texts, both written and visual.

Courses I have taught include:

  • First Year Seminar: The Middle Ages in Popular Culture
  • History 101: The Development of Modern Europe to 1789
  • History 110: Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia
  • History 111: Ancient Rome and Early Medieval Europe
  • History 207: Medieval Europe
  • History 253: Medieval Popular Religion and Devotion
  • History 298. Byzantine History
  • History 298. History of England
  • History 298: History of Christianity
  • History 343: Late Antiquity–Transformation and Migration
  • History 344: Sex, Gender, and the Body in the Medieval World (Fall 2013)
  • History 398: Carolingian History
  • History 401: Senior Seminar

I have also enjoyed teaching courses outside pre-modern Europe and even beyond the discipline of history while leading students on study abroad programs. These international courses include:

  • AFDS 201; Witnessing Contemporary African Society (South Africa January 2014 Study-Abroad)
  • INT 250: Dzongka Language and Culture (co-instructor, Wheaton in Bhutan Program, Fall 2017 and Fall 2019)
  • INT 260: Contemporary Bhutanese Society (Wheaton in Bhutan Program, Fall 2017 and Fall 2019)
  • INT 360: Practicum in Bhutan (Wheaton in Bhutan Program, Fall 2017 and Fall 2019)

Student Projects

Undergraduate students are key participants in my varied research projects, as noted above. For most of my time at Wheaton, I have worked with many history majors on a research project entitled “Women and Family, Love and Marriage at the Court of Charlemagne.” Our collaborative research has been supported financially by a Wheaton Research Partnership (2010–14, 2016–19) and six Wheaton College Mars/Mellon Collaborative Summer Research Grants (2011–12, 2015–20).

Research Interests

My research centers on early medieval European history, specifically the Carolingian realm from the reign of Pepin the Short (r. 751–768 CE) through the civil wars of the 840s CE. I approach the Frankish world through the lenses of cultural, political, and gender history. The questions animating my research involve the intersection of religion and royal power, the role of physicality and space in Christian devotion and the political imagination, and, more recently, the nature of the gendered body in the Church and at court.

My current research explores gender, sexuality and family at the Carolingian court and among the Frankish aristocracy during the reigns of Charlemagne (768-814 CE), Louis the Pious (814-840 CE), and Louis the Pious’s sons (840–877 CE). Much of my research has been undertaken in full collaboration with Wheaton undergraduate students.





Knapton 327


Tuesdays 1–4pm & by appointment