Humanities Faculty & Staff
Elizabeth Perkins, Dean
Joy S. Handelman
Delight, awe, and, sometimes, horror at the results of human creativity form the basis for Joy Handelman’s passion for teaching. A high school trip to Europe inspired these responses and has guided her interests in various ways ever since. Being hustled onto a tour bus whose destination was Dachau destroyed her romantic notions of Europe’s glory. The fact that commercial tours were offered to such a place added a bizarre note to the horror. Being hustled onto another bus a week later brought an equal but opposite shock. The destination was the Galleria dell' Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. At seventeen Handelman was annoyed at the itinerary (and the early hour) because “everybody knows what the David looks like” and almost missed the bus on purpose. Bleary-eyed and aggravated, she shuffled into the gallery and saw marble that seemed to breathe; he looked as if he might have turned and walked away. How could the same type of creature, whether an elevated ape or a divine creation, make both Dachau and the David?
After two years at the University of Georgia, she transferred to Brown University where another question was articulated in a seminar one spring day. A student asked, “Where does language come from?”. The professor, a celebrated scholar in Semiotics, answered with the warning that a divine being was at the end of that road of questioning. Student and professor went back and forth without resolution. The professor insisted that such questions would lead to something terrible; the student insisted that he must have an answer. Handelman left class that day with a lighter heart. Finally, it seemed something fundamental and essential had been approached in her studies. Along with other classes at Brown, she studied Proust, Joyce and Faulkner with Arnold Weinstein, poetry with James Schevill, and fairy tales with Jack Erwin.
Receiving a master’s degree in education from Georgia Southwestern State University placed her in a very traditional academic setting. Later work, travel and living in Switzerland for a year led to going to law school at UGA. Law school was like nothing she had ever encountered. The work did not come naturally to her. No one cared what she thought if she could not back it up with case law or statutes. To her surprise, she finished her first year in the top quarter of her class. She practiced law until her first son was born and is still an active member of the State Bar of Georgia. Today the techniques of her law professors sometimes enliven her own classes; she has been known, in spite of the groans, to have students stand to answer questions or read parts in a play.
Joy loves spending time with her two sons, her family, and friends. She loves theater and has a love/hate relationship with writing and painting.