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Susan's Blog

The Stylite

I hope you enjoy my story, "The Stylite," published in Feminist Spaces. Rooted in stories of religious solitaries from the Middle Ages, "The Stylite" creates a feminist icon for all ages. Stylites were religious devotees who stood on pillars—sometimes for years—to demonstrate their devotion to God. Most of these named stylites were men, though anonymous women are said to have also performed these acts of spiritual and physical endurance. The female stylite imagined here elicits condemnation, only to ultimately triumph as resilient inspiration. As figures for public consumption both in the past and today, women have been told to hide themselves away via clothing conventions or to silence themselves via shame tactics. Yet some defiant ones accept—even revel in—their roles as public spectacles. 

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Song of the Lark

Song of the Lark, by Jules Adolphe Breton (France) 1884

The Song of the Lark was one of my mother's favorite paintings. This poem in The Ekphrastic Review is inspired by both my mother and that beautiful work of art at The Art Institute in Chicago. She even writes about it in her diary on Sunday, May 30, 1938 (age 15):


. . . Friday night Mom and I went to Lake View to see Il Trovatore—given by American Opera Company. Mom went to sleep during it and I had to hold my eyelids up! Are we cultural!


Mom and I went downtown and I got me a new peasant—dusty pink—dress. I look like the Song of the Lark or something. It's a dirndl and awfully cute.

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Throbbing with Life

Der schwebende Engel [The Hovering Angel], by Ernst Barlach (Germany) 1926

Having taught in the former East Germany in the 1980s, I am currently working on a book about my Stasi (secret police) file which has some unusual—and false—assertions. This piece in The Ekphrastic Review comes from my forthcoming work.

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Resurrection Fern

I'm delighted to share my poem, "Resurrection Fern," which recently appeared in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment]. It stems (no pun intended!) from several trips I made to an East Texas Sunday House owned by a dear friend PJ. There were resurrection ferns there and I was utterly taken by them and their resilience. I hope you'll like this poem!

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"Another Troy" is Finalist for Literary Award

Another Troy has been chosen as a finalist for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Award!

I'm so delighted that Another Troy has been recognized yet again. It has been chosen as a finalist for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Award! Congratulations to my mother Joan, whose verse I edited in this chapbook!

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"Another Troy" Wins Literary Award!

I'm delighted to announce that Another Troy won the Gold Medal for the 2021 Human Relations Indie Book Awards. The book won in the category of Wisdom Poetry. Despite her youth, my mother, Joan Wehlen Morrison, wrote wise poetry. As she ponders shortly after the start of World War II, "Did I Make the World?"




         Here are we two and the night is white clouded

         And the dream-music drifting out the window

         Punctuated at the hour by themes broadcast

         And we return to Träumerei.

         I can hardly believe

         Even now the pulp of flesh is draining white

         In Poland, that there is any life anywhere

         Save this dream life of ours.

         Perhaps all this world is only 'I imagine.'

         All mine.  I made it.


         (September 25, 1939)

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The Rewards of Patient Scholarship with Patient Griselda

I first began writing about Patient Griselda from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Clerk's Tale in the 1980s. A chapter of my dissertation addressed what I called her negative poetics. That dissertation I finished in 1991. Now it is 30 years later and that chapter has finally been published as an article in Medieval Feminist Forum–but in a much embellished and improved form. While originally I just focused on a feminist approach to Griselda's uses of variants of "no" in her replies to her abusive husband, Walter, I was now, after exploring theoretical fields not even imagined in their present forms at the time, able to produce a much richer piece. Here is the current abstract:


This essay argues for silence as a dynamic actant and vibrant rhetoric. While Walter commits slow violence against her, Griselda in Chaucer's Clerk's Tale resists the predatory practice of exploiting nonhuman objects, which, within misogyny, women embody. Ultimately framed within an ecocritical paradigm, this essay is grounded in lessons from trauma studies concerning silence, as well as new materialist and ecocritical approaches. Whether focusing on emotional distress, environmental devastation, or the agency of materiality, these critical approaches cohere by making manifest and heard what has been repressed, silenced, or overlooked. Griselda writes her own narrative, patiently and resiliently enacting agency through her poetics of negation.


Trauma studies, as I understand it, didn't even exist as a field then. New materialist and ecocritical paradigms such as plant studies–which I draw on–likewise did not exist in their current forms. There is something called "Slow Scholarship," which argues against the academy's urgent desire for immediate production. Much better scholarship can occur over the long term. I have been working something I call "slow pilgrimage ecopoetics," which looks at medieval–and more contemporary–pilgrimage texts as exemplifying a slow process, leading to an ecocritical perspective. My pilgrimage to having "Insistent, Persistent, Resilient: The Negative Poetics of Patient Griselda" published was slow, but ultimately so rewarding. It is a much better piece for having taken so long. Patience in scholarship as with Griselda's [in]famous patience deserves attention. Silence does not mean inactivity or lack of thought. It can be a form of agency as well as a form of resistance.


Works Referenced

"Insistent, Persistent, Resilient: The Negative Poetics of Patient Griselda." Medieval Feminist Forum, vol. 56 no. 2 (2020): 73–92.


Susan Signe Morrison on Slow Pilgrimage Ecopoetics

"Slow Practice as Ethical Aesthetics: The Ecocritical Strategy of Patience in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Clerk's Tale." Special Issue: 2020 Ecocriticism: In Europe and Beyond; 10th Year Anniversary Issue. Ecozon@ 11.2 (2020): 118-127.


"[A]n exterior air of pilgrimage": The Resilience of Pilgrimage Ecopoetics and Slow Travel from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales to Jack Kerouac's On the Road," in Special Issue of Humanities (2020) 9, 117: 1-11. Special Issue: Keep on Rolling Under the Stars: Green Readings on the Beat Generation.https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040117


"Slow Pilgrimage Ecopoetics." Special issue on Randomness and Design. Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment 10.1 (2019): 40-59. http://ecozona.eu/article/view/2527/3110. Accessed May 13, 2019.


"Dynamic Dirt: Medieval Holy Dust, Ritual Erosion, and Pilgrimage Ecopoetics." Open Library of Humanities [Waste: Papers on Disposability, Decay and Depletion]. 5.1 (2019): pp. 1-30. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.373.


"Walking as Memorial Ritual: Pilgrimage to the Past." Featured Article for M/C Journal: A Journal of Media and Culture 21.4 (2018). Special Issue: Walking. http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1437


On slow scholarship: see Hannes Bergthaller,, Rob Emmett, Adeline Johns-Putra, Agnes Kneitz, Susanna Lidström, Shane McCorristine, Isabel Pérez Ramos, Dana Phillips, Kate Rigby and Libby Robin. "Mapping Common Ground: Ecocriticism, Environmental History, and the Environmental Humanities." Environmental Humanities, vol. 5, 2014, pp. 261-276.

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Delighted to be Designated University Distinguished Professor

Deeply honored and humbled to be designated Texas State University Distinguished Professor. Many thanks to all who supported me throughout my career! ? And special congratulations to my fellow designee, Rodney Rohde! Here's more about the award: "This award honors individuals whose performance in teaching, research, and service has been exemplary and recognized at the state, national, and international levels. Dr. Morrison will retain the title of "University Distinguished Professor" for the duration of her service at Texas State. She will also receive a one-time $5,000 award, a commemorative medallion, and recognition during the fall convocation. Finally, Dr. Morrison has been nominated for consideration by The Texas State University System (TSUS) Board of Regents for the Regents' Professor Award."

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Scholarly Analysis of “Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife”

Jolene Witkam's MA Thesis in Philology from Leiden University

It is so interesting when one's own novel becomes fodder for literary scholars to analyze. As a literary scholar myself, it is really fun to read. For example, I came across an MA thesis which analyzes Grendel's Mother: Jolene Witkam's MA Thesis in Philology from Leiden University. One of her advisors is none other than Dr. M. H. Porck, whose blog on Early English material and Old English is fantastic. Then there is Kathleen Forni's Beowulf's Popular Afterlife in Literature, Comic Books, and Film (Routledge, 2018). Forni calls my novel "a realistic and lyrically poetic version of a story….As Morrison's elegant retelling attests, high art can also embody the experiences of the marginalized." I'm delighted academics are able to take this novel and read it from theoretical and linguistic perspectives. I'm looking forward to seeing more in the future! Let me know if you come across any other such works.

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Cold War Women's Stories for International Women's Day

For International Women's Day, listen to these women's Cold War stories, including mine! Mine is the 5th one on this list at Cold War Conversations.

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