Dani Johannesen
Dani Johannesen, Ph.D. holding a JFK coffee mug

Danielle “Dani” Johannesen, Ph.D., has been working as an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Crookston for 11 years, beginning in the fall of 2012. She is originally from Huron, S.D., where her parents and brother still reside along with her two nephews.

“I am trying to be the fun aunt,” Johannesen said with a smile.

She now lives in Crookston with her common law husband, Josh, and her adorable basset hound, Clifford. In her free time, Johannesen enjoys watching sports, crafting, cooking, traveling, reading, and writing.

Johannesen has published several scholarly articles and short stories, book chapters on the Great Plains, Western American Literature, and a few articles on travel and tourism. She also co-edited a book with UMN Crookston professor, Mark Huglen, Ph.D., called “Iconic Sports Venues.” In March 2019, Johannesen stepped out of her normal writing comfort zone and decided to start writing a book about the literary legacy of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

“In high school, I became very interested in the Kennedy’s – right after JFK Junior’s plane crash death,” she explained. “I was actually initially interested in Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s brother, but it wasn’t until college that I became interested in the JFK assassination. The possibility of a conspiracy was intriguing.”

Johannesen shares that because of her interest in the JFK assassination, she always wanted to visit the assassination site in Dallas, Texas. In January 2019, she traveled to Dallas and Dealey Plaza, the park where John F. Kennedy was shot. A UMN Crookston student attended with her as well and she spent five days doing field research for her project idea.

“It was an incredible experience because we were visiting all the places: Lee Harvey Oswald’s grave, the theater where Oswald was arrested, and the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza,” she went on. “The scene of the assassination was mysterious, like being in a movie.”

Johannesen’s original plan was to work on an article about conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination, but during the trip, it turned into something much bigger.

“I was overwhelmed by the strange qualities of the [Dallas, Texas and Dealey Plaza] place,” she added.

Johannesen shifted gears from conspiracy theories to Dealey Plaza, and that became the basis for the book and topic. So far, she has written a complete book proposal as well as two chapters, one of them being about Dealey Plaza.

Johannesen is studying how the assassination has been used in fiction and nonfiction books as raw material for literature. Lee Harvey Oswald and John F. Kennedy are both used as characters in many different literary works, and Johannesen wants to touch on that in her book. She is ultimately writing about how much the JFK assassination has influenced literature. Her vision is to show the crime as being the main plot point in many books.

So far, Johannesen has given two presentations on her book project. The most recent was in October, when she traveled to the Popular Culture Association of the South conference in New Orleans, La., to give a presentation about the depictions of the Kennedy assassination in graphic novels and comics.

Johannesen hopes to travel to Dealey Plaza at least one more time before completing her book, which she plans to finish in about two years. She is currently sending out the book proposal to publishers to get a contract to publish it.

Written for the December 2022 Torchlight e-Newsletter.