Joan of Arc lecture draws crowd at Carpe Diem


Professor Lois Huneycutt gives a lecture about Joan of Arc inside of Carpe Diem on Wednesday Aug. 11. Huneycutt is a professor of history at the University of Missouri who specializes in medieval women and European history. POLINA YAMSHCHIKOV/Missourian

About 15 people crowded into Carpe Diem Wednesday to listen and learn about the one of the most recognizable women in history.

“I’m happy to see so much interest in Joan of Arc,” said Lois Huneycutt, assistant history professor at MU.  “I always ask students in my women’s history class to name some women in the Middle Ages. Joan of Arc is always at the top of that list.”

Joan of Arc was a peasant who heard saints’ voices, becoming a national symbol of hope, a condemned sinner and, finally, a martyr — all before she turned 20. Later, she became a symbol of French resistance who inspired Napoleon as well as countless playwrights, composers, directors and novelists.

The Joan of Arc presentation was a part of Carpe Diem’s Adult Summer Camp, a program aimed at Columbia’s curious minds. Alex Innecco, artistic director of Carpe Diem, organized the series this summer but it enjoyed so much success he felt he needed to continue into August. Innecco recruited Huneycutt to help with the Women, Women, Women! series, which began Aug. 3, and is focused on infamous women in three areas: music, history and art.

The Women, Women, Women! series emerged out of audience response to previous lectures that lacked a gender focus.

“It was just clear from how the discussions went that there was a real interest in women’s history,” Huneycutt said.

Earlier this summer she lectured for Carpe Diem about Henry VIII, an English king during the Reformation, but “all of the discussion and all of the questions were about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. It’s just that whole infamous women thing.”

Huneycutt said she was interested in making history accessible.

“I’m really focused on presenting Joan as a historical character, what we know about her, and then a little bit about Joan in popular culture — how she shows up in films, novels, and things in the 20th century,” Huneycutt said. “But also to fit her into historical context.”

Huneycutt argued that the calamitous 14th century before Joan’s ascent to fame — a century of religious disorder, war, famine and plague — allowed medieval women to become more visible.

“People were so upset with the power structures as they were that there was an opening for these women to have their voices heard in ways that they didn’t have…when things were functioning better,” Huneycutt said.

One of the attendees, Joyce Mitchell, a history enthusiast, said she enjoyed Huneycutt’s lecture.

“You learn a lot, and you learn it painlessly,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been a grad student so I know what it is to listen to a lecture, take notes and be tested. Not necessary here. You just come, you listen and learn and enjoy it.”

Mitchell said she planned on seeing Huneycutt’s next lecture about Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart on Wednesday, August 18.

Elizabeth I was a powerful queen during the 16th century who was in the position to execute her cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. It’s Huneycutt’s position that Mary was very easily manipulated by the men in her life, which led her to participate in numerous treasonous plots against Elizabeth. Ultimately, Elizabeth was forced to execute her. Huneycutt believes Elizabeth was genuinely upset about having to do this, but it was a matter of state security.

Carpe Diem’s summer series continues until Thursday, Aug. 26. Lectures start at noon and are around an hour long. Tickets are $15 per lecture — half off for students — or $60 for a five-day card that includes one free talk.

Attendees may also purchase lunch, catered by Sven’s Kafé, for $6.

A full listing of the Women, Women, Women! lecture topics can be found on the Carpe Diem website.


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