Headshot of Dr.Joanna  Drell

Dr. Joanna Drell

Professor of History
Curriculum Vitae

  • Profile

    Joanna Drell teaches courses on medieval-Renaissance European history (900-1600 C.E.), Medieval Italy, Renaissance Italy, the Crusades, medieval frontier societies, the medieval family, and the ancient/medieval epic tradition. She has a particular interest in issues of identity, memory, family, and the historical/literary dialogue between medieval southern Italy and the Latin West.

    Her current book project, Land of Marvels and Monsters: Outsiders’ perceptions of medieval southern Italy and Sicily (c. 1050-1302), examines outsiders’ perceptions of the medieval kingdom of southern Italy and Sicily (or the ‘Regno’) under Norman and Angevin rule, 1050-1302. What was a land of “marvels” to one visitor teemed with “monsters and the monstrous” to another. The pluralistic society of the Regno — where Christian, Muslim, Jew, and Greek as well as Latin, Lombard, Norman and Angevin commingled — was fodder for the medieval poet and chronicler, the political polemicist, and the merchant diarist. This project looks to texts both well-known (e.g. the works of Chrétien de Troyes and Dante Alighieri) and more obscure (e.g. merchant records, law codes) to examine what northern writers knew about the south’s history and how they presented this knowledge. What events, historical ‘players,’ and other aspects were of particular interest to visitors from the north? What is revealed about their re-imaginings of the Regno? Were the Regno’s inhabitants perceived as a cultural “other” by outsiders? Addressing these and related questions pushes the boundaries of medieval scholarship and clarifies the Regno’s place in a broader Italo - European context and sociopolitical narrative. In addition, evaluating a variety of texts through the lens of medieval southern Italy permits a deeper understanding of both these literary monuments and the intercultural complexities that underpinned them.

    Dr. Drell is serving as the Conference Director of the Haskins Society, 2022-2024. The University of Richmond is honored to host the conference on campus for this period. The Haskins Society, founded in 1982, is an international scholarly organization dedicated to studying the history and cultures of peoples in northwest Europe in the early and central middle ages, and their encounters with societies in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the larger medieval world.

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    • Grants and Fellowships

      2013-2022  UR Faculty Summer Research/Travel Grants

      2008-2011  UR Faculty Summer Research/Travel Grants

      2009  NEH Dante Summer Seminar:  Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Medieval World

      2003-2004  American Philosophical Society Franklin Grant

      2000-2001  The Rome Prize, The American Academy in Rome (NEH Post-Doctoral Fellowship)

    • Awards

      2004  American Catholic Historical Association Marraro Book Award

    • Presentations

      “Who is an ‘immigrant’ in medieval Italy?”, New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota FL, March 2020. [Cancelled due to Covid-19; rescheduled]

      “From Arabs to Lombards to Normans:  Legacies of Migration in Medieval southern Italy and Sicily, Contested Spaces of the Mediterranean: Migration. University of Richmond, March 26, 2019.

      “Dagli Arabi ai Lombardi ai Normanni: Riflessioni su Immigrati e Conquistatori nella Sicilia Medievale,” [“From Arabs to Lombards to Normans: Reflections on Immigrants and Conquerors in Medieval Sicily,”]Dalle terre degli Aleramici alla Sicilia. La migrazione “Lombarda” nella Sicilia Arabo-Normanna, organizzato dal Circolo Culturale, “I Marchesi del Monferrato,” e dall’Officina di Studi Medievali, Palermo, Sicilia, 5 ottobre, 2018. 

      “Fashion and Society in Renaissance Italy,” Vi at Palo Alto Lecture Series, July 24, 2018. 

      “A Fashionable Legacy: Textiles, Clothing and Memory,” Stanford Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Stanford University, March 14, 2018.

      “Memory and Commemoration in Prato: Castello Dell’Imperatore” New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota FL, March 9, 2017.

      “ ‘The Luxuriant Southern Scene’: Textiles as Reflections of Power in the Norman Kingdom of Southern Italy and Sicily,” Panel Organizer and Presenter, The Charles Homer Haskins Society, November, Carleton College, 2016.

      “A Fashionable Legacy: Textiles, Clothing and Memory in medieval southern Italy,” New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota FL, March, 2016.

      “Strangers and Neighbors in medieval Southern Italy,” Panel Organizer and Presenter, International Medieval Conference, Leeds University, England, July, 2015.

      “Shaping Norman Italian History,” International Medieval Conference, Leeds University, July, 2015.

      “How high are my shoes? Women and Sumptuary Legislation in Medieval Italy,” Plenary Lecture, Randolph Macon College, Virginia, 2015.

      “Crusading and The Kingdom of Southern Italy,” New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota FL, March, 2014.

      “Reception of Norman Italy Beyond the South (or Why is Robert Guiscard in Dante’s Paradiso?), The Medieval Academy of America, March, 2013, Knoxville, TN.

      “The Voice of Medieval Aristocratic Women,” Cultural Connections, The University of Richmond, Spring, 2012.

      “From Robert Guiscard to Andreuccio of Perugia:  Northern Italian Perspectives on the Regno during the Middle Ages,”  Eighteenth International Medieval Conference, Leeds University, England, July, 2011.

      The Medieval Mezzogiorno, a Cultural Mosaic,” Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Art History, March 31, 2011.

      “Reading the Mezzogiorno in Dante,” New College Conference on Medieval-Renaissance Studies, Sarasota FL, March 12, 2010.

      Chair/Comment and Session Organizer:  “Scholarly Roads Leading to Rome:  new Research Avenues on the Eternal City,”  The American Historical Association/Society for Italian Historical Studies, New York City, January 4, 2009.

      Round Table: “The Medieval Nobility:  The State of the Question [Italy],” Forty-First International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2008.

    • Institutional Service

      A selection:

      Chair, History Department, July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2022

      Co-Author, A&S Faculty Morale Report, Spring 2022

      Provost’s Covid-19 Preparations Working Group, May 2020

      Humanities Initiative Advisory Board, 2015-2020, renewed 2020-2023

      Promotion and Tenure Committee, 2018 – 2021 (resigned after 2018-19 to be dept. chair)

      Co-Creator/Advisor, UR Undergraduate Humanities Fellows Program, 2014 – present

      Co-Director of the Faculty Learning Community, “Medieval and Renaissance Studies in a Transnational Context”, 2016-2017

      Invited Participant in American Association of Colleges and Universities Summer Institute on High Impact Practices and Student Success, UCLA, June 21-26, 2016. 

      Faculty Learning Community on Digital Humanities, 2015 – 2016

      Ad-Hoc Committee on the Humanities (on leave for 2014-2015 sabbatical).

    • Community Service

      A selection:

      Director, Haskins Society Annual Conference, University of Richmond, 2022-2024 

      Haskins Society: Councilor, 2015-2022

      Book Review Editor, Medieval Sophia (Studi e Richerche sui Saperi Medievali) 2022-2025

      National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant Reviewer, 2018 

      Book Review Editor, The Medieval Review, 2016-2018

      Manuscript Reviewer for The Haskins Journal, Speculum, The Journal of Medieval History, University of Pennsylvania Press, Cornell University Press, University of Michigan Press

      Strategic Plan Consultant for Agecroft Hall, Richmond, VA. 2019.

      Book Review Editor, The Medieval Review, 2016-2018

      Society for Italian Historical Studies, Nominating Committee, 2008-09. 

      American Academy in Rome, Society of Fellows Nominating Committee, 2008- 2010. 

      American Catholic Historical Association Nominating Committee Chair, 2009-2011.

  • Publications

    (Book in process) Memory and Commemoration in Renaissance Europe, eds. Joanna H. Drell, Emily O’Brien [solicited by Routledge Press].

    (Book in process) Land of Marvels and Monsters: Outsiders’ Perceptions of Medieval Southern Italy and Sicily (c. 1050 – 1302).

    Expanding Scholarly Frontiers. Essays in Honor of Graham A. Loud, eds. Joanna H. Drell, Paul Oldfield. Manchester University Press, June 2021.

    Medieval Italy: A Documentary History (in collaboration with Dr. K. Jansen, Dr. Frances Andrews), University of Pennsylvania Press: July, 2009 (paperback, 2010).

    Kinship and Conquest:  Family Strategies in the Principality of Salerno during the Norman Period, 1077-1194, Cornell University Press: June 2002. Marraro Book Award Winner, 2004.

    Journal Articles

    (article in process) “The Normans in Sicily,” eds. Joanna H. Drell and David Routt, Oxford Online Bibliographies, Summer, 2023.

    (article in process) “Castello Dell’Imperatore—Frederick II’s Southern Italian Castle in Tuscany” for Memory and Commemoration in Renaissance Europe.

    “Dagli Arabi ai Lombardi ai Normanni: Riflessioni su Immigrati e Conquistatori nella Sicilia Medievale,” Gli Aleramici in Sicilia, forthcoming 2023.

    “Cultural Syncretism and Ethnic Identity:  The Norman “Conquest” of Southern Italy and Sicily,” The Journal of Medieval History, XXV, No. 3, 1999, pp. 187-202.

    "Family Structure in the Principality of Salerno Under Norman Rule,"  Anglo-Norman Studies XVIII, 1996, pp.79-103.

    Book Chapters

    “ ‘The Luxuriant Southern Scene’: Textiles, Clothing and Memory in the Medieval Kingdom of Southern Italy and Sicily” Mapping Medieval Sicily: Maritime Violence, Cultural Exchange, and Imagination in the Mediterranean, ed. Katherine Ryerson and Emily Tai, Palgrave Macmillan, 2022, pp. 207 - 224.

    “Teaching Dante in History Classes,” Approaches to Teaching Dante’s Comedy, 2nd edition (Modern Language Association Publications, Spring, 2020), pp. 120 - 126.

    “From Lemons to Legislation, Welcoming Foreigners in the Medieval Regno," Quei Maledetti Normanni. Studi offerti a Errico Cuozzo per I suoi settant’anni, ed. Jean-Marie Martin. (CESN, 2016), pp. 371 - 384.

    “Norman Italy and Crusades: Thoughts on the Homefront,“ Crusading and Pilgrimage in the Norman World, eds. Paul Oldfield, Kathryn Hurlock (Boydell and Brewer, 2015), pp. 51 - 63.

    "Family Structure in Salernitan Society," Salerno nel XII secolo: istituzioni, società, cultura, Paolo Delogu and Paolo Peduto ed., Centro Studi Salernitani "Raffaele Guariglia", 2004, pp. 103-118.

    “The Normans in Sicily,” Oxford Bibliographies Summer 2014.

    “Aristocratic Economies: Women and Family,” The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, eds. Judith Bennett and Ruth Karras. (Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 327-342.

    Using Dante to Teach the Middle Ages: Examples from Medieval Southern Italian History.” Pedagogy 13:1, 59-65 (2013).

    Antiques Consuetudines” and Civic Identities in the Kingdom of Southern Italy and Sicily (1050-1300)‘  Festschrift  in honor of Anthony A. Molho, ed. Diogo Ramada Curto, Julius Kirshner, Eric Dursteller, and Francesca Trivellato.  (Leo S. Olschki Publishers, 2009), pp. 303-320.

    The Normans,” “Roger II,” “William I,” “William II,” Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. Routledge, 2004.

    “Family Structure in Salernitan Society,”  Salerno nel XII secolo: istituzioni, società, cultura, ed. Paolo Delogu and Paolo Peduto. (Centro Studi Salernitani “Raffaele Guariglia”, 2004), pp. 103-118.

    “The Aristocratic Family in Norman Southern Italy,” in The Normans in Southern Italy, ed. G. A. Loud.  (Brill Publishers, 2002), pp. 97-113.


    Dawn Marie Hayes, Roger II of Sicily, Family, Faith, and Empire in the Medieval Mediterranean World. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2020. Mediterrean Studies, forthcoming 2023.

    Hailstone, Paula Z., Recalcitrant Crusaders?: The Relationship between Southern Italy and Sicily, Crusading and the Crusader States, c. 1060–1198. (Advances in Crusades Research.) London and New York: Routledge, 2020. Speculum, forthcoming 2023.

    City and Community in Norman Italy (Cambridge U.P., 2009) by Paul Oldfield,  The English Historical Review,  cxxvi. 518 (Feb. 2011), 124-126.

    Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante, by George Dameron, The Historian (Winter, 2009).

    To Have and To Hold:  Marrying and Its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600, by Philip L. Reynolds and John Witte Jr. (eds.), The Journal of Interdisciplinary History  (Winter, 2009).

    The Deeds of Count Roger of Calabria and Sicily, and of His Brother Duke Robert Guiscard by Geoffrey Malaterra (University of Michigan Press, 2005) by Kenneth Baxter Wolf.  The Journal of Medieval Latin, 19 (2009).

    Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily, by Jeremy Johns // Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily, by Alex Metcalfe, The American Historical Review. October, 2004.