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Susan's Blog

Fusing Waste and Pilgrimage

W.G. Sebald's amazing book, The Rings of Saturn

I'm delighted that my new article is out which braids together my long-standing interests in pilgrimage and waste. It is called: "An Uncanny Pilgrimage through the Wastescapes of W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn and Cormac McCarthy's The Road: Synchronic Time and Revenant Metaphorical Thinking," Special Issue on Post-Apocalyptic Waste, Revenant 10 (2024): 143-161.

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The Joan Wehlen Morrison Collection

Joan's German books for a German language class at the U of C in 1940/1

In 2010, my mother, Joan Wehlen Morrison, died, leaving behind her grieving family. Additionally, she left behind her journals, poetry, and diaries from the late 1930s-early 1940s from when she was ages 14-20. These materials, the original papers and notebooks, have been at my home in Austin, TX, for over a decade. But my husband and I plan to retire in the near future to a home on the seaside in Massachusetts. I've long wanted to have mom's collection archived at a professional library.


My dream was to have them housed at the University of Chicago which she graduated from in 1944. She talks about the university many times in her journals. My dream came true! Read here about the process of transferring this archive from my home to the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago.

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Behind the Iron Canon

Susie by the ocean in Rostock, East Germany in winter 1989

This essay in The Font: A Literary Journal for Language Teachers retells the story of my teaching masters' students in the former East Germany (GDR) in fall 1988. "Behind the Iron Canon: Teaching Literary Theory in East Germany" was described by the editor as a "twisty tale of Cold War intrigue." I hope you enjoy it!

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Braided Scholarship: Scholarly Writing as Creative Praxis

This book is available for purchase here.

I just got my hard copy of "Climate Changes Global Perspectives." Cate Sandilands and I had great fun with our piece called "Story into Theory, Theory into Story: A Conversation on Braided Scholarship." We talk about how scholarly writing is a form of creative praxis. I encourage you to read the entire volume!

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On my mother's 100 birthday

Joan as the Virgin Mary in her church pageant, 1938

December 20, 2022 would have been my mom's 100th birthday. Joan was born on the (almost) shortest and the darkest day of the year. Yet she shed light on all those she met through her kindness and empathy. In the image I choose here for her--as the Virgin Mary in a church pageant when she was just 16 years old--her beatific face gazes at a doll or flashlight depicting the baby Jesus. She was a precocious writer, compassionately considering His birth in this poem from Mary's perspective written the previous Christmas of 1937.


Christmas 1937       

      Mary's son was not cold

      When the Wise Men came with gold

      Mary's son was newly born

      When the shepherds came with morn.

      Mary bore her son alone

      While above the wonder shone

      Of the star on just that night

      Led the shepherds there aright.

      All the years since then have passed

      Stars that shine will ever last.

      Why did that star only then

      Shine and never once again?

      Only once He came to Earth

      Only once proclaim His birth,

      But each year at Christmastide

      Yet we think of Him who died,

      And was born in that small town

      While the Wonder Star looked down.

      Let all the heavens still proclaim

      Honor to His Holy Name.


May all of us consider those who are vulnerable this holiday season!


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The Three Most Important Words in German: When 'letters are considered sealed containers’

Susie and Sarah in front of Chicago's "Bean"

So fun presenting about my Stasi file in a talk called "The Three Most Important Words in German: When 'letters are considered sealed containers'"—a part of my book project about teaching in the former East Germany in the 1980's. The session, entitled "Secret Police Hermeneutics: Interpretation and Misinterpretation and the Secret Police in the Eastern Bloc," took place at the ASEEES [Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies] annual convention. Plus I got to see great art with my lovely daughter!

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Revenge by a Page Turner

Please read my short story about a lowly page turner to a great pianist.

My short story, "The Page Turner," has been published by Free Spirit Press in India in a volume dedicated to revenge. If you like revenge or what to know how to enact it, please read my work. In this short story, the inconspicuous page turner to a great pianist exacts her revenge to become visible. The gender dynamics complicate her actions.

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Smuggled Balsam and the Inscription of Memory

So excited an article I've been pondering since the 1990s has come out at last. Sometimes cooking thoughts slowly is the best thing to do. "Smuggled Balsam and the Inscription of Memory: Hugeberc von Hildesheim and the Pilgrimage of Saint Willibald." In Women's Lives: Self-Representation, Reception and Appropriation in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honour of Elizabeth Petroff, edited by Nahir I. Otaño Gracia and Daniel Armenti. University of Wales Press, 2022, pp. 141-156.

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Manuscript Discovery: Grendel’s Mother and My Mother

I was flipping through the pages of my mother's book from when she was a high school student in Chicago in the 1930s. I had held World Literature (edited by E. A. Cross, also 1935) numerous times. I opened it to gaze within, seeing her inscription: "Joan Wehlen October 26, 1938 U-High." In the Table of Contents, she had transcribed this famous quote from Anatole France: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." Coming from a family with socialist leanings in the wake of the Depression, this sentiment must have resonated. She also had transcribed the word "Hrunting"--the name of the sword loaned to Beowulf by Unferth. To download a pdf of the 1904 translation of Clarence G. Child (Houghton Mifflin) as reprinted in World Literature (edited by E. A. Cross, also 1935), just check out my blogpost here.


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A Bittersweet Consolation on the Anniversary of my Mother's 99th Birthday

"Cavalier Poet to his Lady" by Joan Wehlen Morrison. "Cavalier Poet to his Lady" was inspired by the metaphysical poets and Carpe Diem poems from the early 17th century.

I was enthusiastic when my daughter asked if we had any books that needed to be bound properly as she was to attend a workshop on bookbinding and conservation. Did we ever! Coming from a family nick-named "the Morrison writing factory" by my mom Joan Wehlen Morrison, we had books galore--many tattered, with spines falling off and pages torn and ripped. I pulled a number out, assuring her, "There are more, if you like!" Read here about how I discovered two poems by my mother and how they brought light into my heart after a difficult year.

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