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Susan's Blog

Marie de France's "Saint Patrick’s Purgatory" as Dynamic Diptych


Excited my article, "Marie de France's 'Saint Patrick's Purgatory' as Dynamic Diptych," just appeared in Le Cygne: Journal of the International Marie de France Society. Marie de France's Saint Patrick's Purgatory / Espurgatoire seint Patriz concerns itself with issues such as translation into the vernacular and spiritual amendment, elements that are integral to pilgrimage ritual as articulated in medieval poetry. Through ekphrastic description, she structures her poem as though it were a di/triptych that is capable of being opened and displayed and anticipates more famous fourteenth-century pilgrimage poems, notable for their complex structures. The frames inherent to these later poems – Dante's pilgrim guided by Virgil; Chaucer's pilgrims riding to Canterbury; Langland's Will falling asleep in the midst of his quotidian life – are manifested through ekphrastic images in Marie's poem. The dynamic force of frames, both literal (in diptychs/triptychs) and metaphorical (pilgrimage poems), spur us to active visual and spiritual contemplation. The reader-viewer amends herself in the vernacular by interacting with the text/diptych. Our ritualized journey is the accident of the true substance of Christ's sacrifice. Marie's book opens to the receptive recipient, sparking the vibrant agency of curative healing.

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My Stasi File--a Podcast Interview with Cold War Conversations

Susan with her friend, Gina Borromeo, in front of the Berlin Wall in late November 1989.


I was delighted to have been asked to for an interview by Cold War Conversations, the robust and active podcast series which retrieves hidden aspects of the past from those who lived through it. I am currently writing a novel about my experiences teaching in Rostock, East Germany, and travelling--legally and illegally--throught the former German Democratic Republic. The fantastic interviewer, James Chilcott, was delightful, encouraging, and lots of fun to speak with about my experiences. Given the nature of quarantine these days, I managed to transcribe diaries and letters I still have from those times to recreate the experiences of a naive American behind the Iron Curtain--a graduate student who quickly learns publishing a newspaper there is not quite like it is in the USA. I hope you enjoy my podcast. There are many images and links as well to further material related to my story. 

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Anchorites in the Age of Covid-19: Zooming with Julian of Norwich

This year more of my students worked on anchorites than ever before. Covid-19 has affected all of us, but students in my Medieval Women Writers class gravitated towards those women walled up for life in cells who dedicated themselves to God. Julian of Norwich in particular was an inspiration to my brilliant and creative students. Her most famous line–"All shall be well"–resonated with my students during this time of self-quarantine, anxiety, and loneliness. From crochet to short stories, research papers to screenplays, Julian and her sister nuns became a sanctuary for my students to explore their own fears, annoyance, pessimism, and even hopes. Teresa de Cartagena, the deaf Spanish nun of the fifteen century, whose ears were "cloistered" by God, was also a touchstone. Read more about my students' work here.

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Delighted to have been interviewed about "Home Front Girl"

I was delighted to have been interviewed by Literary Classics after Home Front Girl won their top award: Words on Wings. My favorite exchange:


Well, when I write at home, my little corgi Gwen barks to be let in and out all the time. It gives me lots of exercise!

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On a "Roll": Interviewed about the History of Toilet Paper

Interviewed again about the history of toilet paper. I guess I'm on a "roll."

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FaceTimes: Trying to Connect with Family During COVID:19

My short story, "FaceTimes," has just appeared in TEJASCOVIDO, edited by Dr. Laurence Musgrove. It's about trying to connect with a dear family member during the early days of the pandemic.

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What Would Freud Make of the Toilet Paper Panic?

Little did I think when I wrote about Chaucer's fecopoetics over ten years ago, that I'd be interviewed for The Talk of the Town in The New Yorker about toilet paper hoarding. 

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“Not all those who wander are lost”

"Not all those who wander are lost": I'm delighted to share a beautiful piece of writing by Emily R. Cordo. She interviewed me about walking, wandering, pilgrimage, slow ecopoetics, the environment, and the campus of Texas State University. Replete with gorgeous photos, I hope it gives you joy and a moment to reflect!

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Grateful and Thrilled

I'm delighted to announce that Home Front Girl has just won two awards from Literary Classics: Gold Medal in Historical Young Adult and the Words on Wings Book Award (only four books get a Top Honors, which this is). My mom, Joan, would be thrilled. I'm so grateful.

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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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