Denva Jackson Gallant 2005

  • Assistant Professor of Medieval Art | Rice University

  • Ph.D., History of Art and Architecture | Harvard University, 2018
  • A.M., History of Art and Architecture | Harvard University, 2012
  • B.A., Art History and Italian Studies | Sweet Briar College, 2005

Denva Jackson Gallant recently took a position at Rice University as Assistant Professor of Art History after teaching at the University of Delaware and receiving the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. Prior to those experiences, Denva tutored with MATCH Corps in Boston, a division of AmeriCorps, and then went on to get her Master’s degree and her doctorate from Harvard.

Denva Jackson Gallant, Class of 2005, remembers that in many facets of her Sweet Briar life, she saw a model of what professors should be. In an independent study with Sweet Briar’s former religion professor, Cathy Guttierez, she learned about the bravery that true scholarship requires. Cathy’s lesson in compassionate reading is something that Denva carries with her: “You acknowledge the work, and you critique with compassion. I always like to set the context for my students ... these are the things that you really understand when you’re doing the work. It doesn’t happen when you just critique.”

Writing her honors thesis at Sweet Briar is something that Denva recalls also gave her a sense of agency. Through her scholarship on John of Morigny and through professor Tracy Chapman-Hamilton, Denva connected with Claire Fanger, an expert on the topic. Fifteen years later, Claire and Denva’s paths crossed again (Claire is now an associate professor at Rice), and Claire volunteered that Denva’s honors thesis is still one of the best papers on the topic that she has ever read.

Denva also has a book coming out in 2024 called Illuminating the Vitae patrum: The Lives of the Desert Saints in Fourteenth-Century Italy, which examines the sudden popularization of the Desert Fathers in the 14th century and the imagery that accompanied that popularization.