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Susan's Blog

Walking as Memorial Ritual: Pilgrimage to the Past

Here is my dad walking along the Pilgrims' Way by a church in southern England.

My article, Walking as Memorial Ritual: Pilgrimage to the Past, braids life-writing with the practice of pilgrimage. Here's part of the article:

 

"In 1966, my parents took my two older brothers and me on the Pilgrims' Way—not the route from London to Canterbury that Chaucer's pilgrims would have taken starting south of London in Southwark, rather the ancient trek from Winchester to Canterbury, famously chronicled in The Old Road by Hilaire Belloc. The route follows along the south side of the Downs, where the muddy path was dried by what sun there was.  My parents first undertook the walk in the early 1950s. Slides from that pilgrimage depict my mother, voluptuous in her cashmere twinset and tweed skirt, as my father crosses a stile. My parents, inspired by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, decided to walk along the traditional Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. Story intersects with material traversal over earth on dirt-laden paths.

 

By the time we children came along, the memories of that earlier pilgrimage resonated with my parents, inspiring them to take us on the same journey. We all carried our own rucksacks and walked five or six miles a day. Concerning our pilgrimage when I was seven, my mother wrote in her diary:

 

As good pilgrims should, we've been telling tales along the way. Yesterday Jimmy told the whole (detailed) story of That Darn Cat, a Disney movie. Today I told about Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, which first inspired me to think of walking trips and everyone noted the resemblance between Stevenson's lovable, but balky, donkey and our sweet Sue. (We hadn't planned to tell tales, but they just happened along the way.)"

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Dynamic Dirt

In the picture of my mother walking through the forest along the Pilgrims' Way, you can see the path itself has lowered below the grassy tufts around it.

This article, Dynamic Dirt: Medieval Holy Dust, Ritual Erosion, and Pilgrimage Ecopoetics, concerns the "liveliness" of nonhuman matter, in this case, dirt. In the picture of my mother walking through the forest along the Pilgrims' Way, you can see the path itself has lowered below the grassy tufts around it. Erosion is an element in pilgrimage. But soil augmentation also is--as well as dirt as healing relic.

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Slow Pilgrimage Ecopoetics

Here are my brothers and mother and I in 1966 on the Pilgrims' Way, en route to Canterbury.

This article has had a long genesis--perhaps you could say it began in 1966, when I was 7 years ago and we walked on sections of the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. I was not a fast walker. This inspired what has ultimately become my article, "Slow Pilgrimage Ecopoetics," published in Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment.

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Waste in Literature and Culture: Aesthetics, Form, and Ethics

Please read the entire article on Waste Studies in EuropeNow Journal.

This article of mine explains what Waste Studies is as a field of study. "Emerging as a response to the imminent dangers of climate change and overwhelming pollution, the critical exploration of waste has emerged as a field of literary and cultural analysis. Waste Studies offers ethical frameworks to pay attention to, understand, and act on bodily, cultural, and societal waste—material aspects of our world. As an aspect of the environmental humanities, Waste Studies expands traditional approaches of ecocriticism, once devoted to "nature," a loaded and complex term. Rather than looking at, say, trees or flowers, the waste theorist focuses on decay, built environments, and dystopic or toxic sites. "

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Grendel’s Mother in Fascist Italy: Beowulf in a Catholic Youth Publication

I’m delighted that my article “Grendel’s Mother in Fascist Italy: Beowulf in a Catholic Youth Publication,” has just been published in the International Journal of Comic Art. This essay focuses on a 1940-41 Italian comic book version by Enrico Basari (author) and Kurt Caesar (illustrator). An anti-semitic portrayal  Read More 
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Home Front Girl now available in paperback!

I’m delighted to announce that Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America has just been released as a paperback. My mother would be thrilled to know how many people have been touched by–and learned from–her diary entries as a teenager  Read More 
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Schnell! Now in German!

I was a German major in college and lived in Munich, Berlin, and the Black Forest. I also taught in East Germany in the 1980s. So it is especially exciting for me to announce that A Medieval Woman's Companion is now published in German as Frauen des Mittelalters: Künstlerinnen – Herrscherinnen –  Read More 
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Awards: Gold Medal in College Nonfiction and Bronze Medal in Women's Studies

I'm delighted to announce that A Medieval Woman's Companion: Women's Lives in the European Middle Ages has been awarded a number of honors.

Winner: Gold Medal in College Nonfiction from Literary Classics as well as being awarded a Seal of Approval.

Their review calls the book “Compelling…fascinating.”

It was  Read More 
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Book Award Finalist for "Grendel's Mother"!

I already felt blessed since Grendel's Mother had won the Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction, a Literary Classics Top Honors Award 2016. Additionally, it was a finalist for the 2014-2015 Sarton Literary Award for Historical Fiction and Finalist for Foreward Reviews' 2015 Indiefab Book of  Read More 
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New Review of The Literature of Waste

[M]y understanding of waste has been greatly expanded by Susan Signe Morrison’s The Literature of Waste: Material Ecopoetics and Ethical Matter....I think her book can help bring readers to a better understanding of waste....Her final two chapters on source reduction and reuse articulate a clear vision of how poetry  Read More 
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