Faculty Profile for Dr. Susan S Morrison
Biography and EducationSpecializing in comparative medieval literature, gender/cultural studies, and ecocriticism, Dr. Susan Signe Morrison writes on topics lurking in the margins of history, ranging from recently uncovered diaries of a teenaged girl in World War II to medieval women pilgrims, excrement in the Middle Ages, and waste. A graduate of Swarthmore College (A.B. in German and English 1981) and Brown University (A.M. 1988, and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature 1991), she also studied at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (1979-80) and the Freie Universität – Berlin (1988-90). After two years as Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at California State University, Fullerton (1991-1993), she accepted an appointment at Texas State University where she is currently University Distinguished Professor of English and Honorary Professor of International Studies.
As 2014 Women and Gender Studies Faculty Scholar, Morrison's scholarship is located at the intersection of gender and theory, with specific focus on the topics of the body, pilgrimage, and waste. Publications include articles in a wide variety of academic journals and book chapters. Author of the first book dedicated to understanding medieval women pilgrims, WOMEN PILGRIMS IN LATE MEDIEVAL ENGLAND: PRIVATE PIETY AS PUBLIC PERFORMANCE (London: Routledge, 2000), Morrison is now considered a leading expert in the field of women pilgrims. Recently, Morrison has been working on slow pilgrimage ecopoetics. As seen in late medieval pilgrimage poems, slowness emerges as an ecopoetical practice or process in multiple ways.
A Times Higher Education (UK) review of Morrison's 2008 interdisciplinary book, EXCREMENT IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES: SACRED FILTH AND CHAUCER'S FECOPOETICS, praised her "spry and sparkling study of excrement in the late Middle Ages." It integrates the historical practices regarding material excrement and its symbolic representation, concluding that excrement is a moral and ethical category deserving scrutiny. Identified as an innovator in the new scholarly discipline of Waste Studies, Morrison built on her 2008 monograph with THE LITERATURE OF WASTE: MATERIAL ECOPOETICS AND ETHICAL MATTER (2015), called an “unparalleled work of literary and cultural criticism,” that “makes a strong argument for why the humanities matter." Tracing the material and metaphoric waste through the western canon, this book disrupts traditional perceptions to understand how we theorize, manage, and are implicated in waste.
Several of Morrison’s books attest to her commitment to bring the lives of women hidden in the shadows to a wider audience; this has led to her designation as Outstanding Faculty Scholar in Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas State University. A MEDIEVAL WOMAN'S COMPANION: WOMEN'S LIVES IN THE EUROPEAN MIDDLE AGES (Oxbow Books 2016), translated into German as FRAUEN DES MITTELALTERS: KUENSTERLINNEN - HERRSCHERINNEN - DENKERINNEN (University of Berlin Press 2017), explores twenty medieval women in their historical and cultural contexts. Making way for the presence women have today in professions such as education, law, and literature, the lives and writings of these women complicate 20th- and 21st-century feminist and gender theories. This book won the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Bronze Medal in Women’s Studies; as well as Honorable Mention in 2 categories: Adult Nonfiction and Young Adult Nonfiction. It was also the Gold Medal Winner in College Nonfiction from Literary Classics.
Morrison’s edited volume, HOME FRONT GIRL: A DIARY OF LOVE, LITERATURE, AND GROWING UP IN WARTIME AMERICA, traces the life of a teenager whose recently discovered diaries before and during World War II provide a unique glimpse into the U.S. home front. It was named by the Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education to the Best Children's Book of the Year 2013 list (Memoir: Ages 14 & up) and won the Gold Medal in Historical Young Adult as well as the Words on Wings Book Award from Literary Classics. More recently she edited the poetry chapbook, ANOTHER TROY, with the World War II poetry of her mother, the historian Joan Wehlen Morrison.
A novelist as well as a scholar, Morrison wrote a feminist retelling of the Old English epic Beowulf. GRENDEL'S MOTHER: THE SAGA OF THE WYRD-WIFE won the Words on Wings Book Award for young adult fiction, a Literary Classics Top Honors Award 2016. It was also a finalist for the following awards: 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Award (Adult Fiction); 2014-2015 Sarton Literary Award for Historical Fiction; and Foreward Reviews' 2015 Indiefab Book of the Year Award: Historical (Adult Fiction).
In Summer 2017 she began archival work in Germany funded by a UT Center for European Studies: MSI Faculty Travel Grant to document the impact of a 1970s/80s exchange program she participated in between two universities: Brown University and one in the former German Democratic Republic. Ultimately, she shows how Stasi (secret police) files—including her own—responding to this program fail to accurately retell what happened. Her 2019 article on this work drew attention from Cold War Conversations, a history podcast where her 2020 interview, “An American Teaching English in East Germany,” can be found. An additional article, "What it was like voting as an American in Germany right before the Berlin Wall fell," appeared in October 2020 in The Local.de, Germany's News in English. She has been awarded the Supplemental Award for her upcoming Developmental Leave to work on this project, which ties her early academic focus on Germany to her feminist scholarship as it has developed more recently. Morrison co-authored the first article ever published on feminist literary theory in the (at the time) major East German Anglo-American literary journal Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik. The article was also published in the Rostocker Forschungen zur Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft, a journal that only existed from 1986-90 and which disappeared upon reunification.
In addition to numerous teaching awards, Dr. Morrison was Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London (2010-11) and has been awarded fellowships and grants from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (2007), the National Endowment for the Humanities (1996-97), and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (1988-9). She was a member of the 1995 Chaucer/Langland NEH Summer Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Brown Writers' Symposium (Nonfiction Writing, Summer 2007). Morrison has taught at the former Wilhelm-Pieck-Universitaet Rostock, German Democratic Republic (1985, 1988-89) and has run an exchange program with Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany focused on twentieth-century German history.
Research InterestsMedieval literature
Women in the Middle Ages
Late medieval English literature
Middle High German
Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanties
Medieval Historical Fiction
Selected Scholarly/Creative Work
- Morrison, S. S. (2020). Slow Practice as Ethical Aesthetics: The Ecocritical Strategy of Patience in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Clerk’s Tale. Ecozon@, 11.2(2020), 118–127. https://doi.org/HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.37536/ECOZONA.2020.11.2.3453
- Morrison, S. S. (Ed.). (2020). Another Troy. Finishing Line Press.
- Morrison, S. S. (2020). The Body: Unstable, Gendered, Theorized. In A Cultural History of Comedy in the Middle Ages (pp. 99–119). London, UK: Bloomsbury.
- Morrison, S. S. (2020). FaceTimes. In Tejascovido. Retrieved from https://www.tejascovido.com/blog/facetimes
- Morrison, S. S. (2019, December 13). “Teaching in East Germany in the 1980s: Collaborating with my Stasi File.” FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture and the Arts. Retrieved from http://www.forumjournal.org/article/view/4142
- Award / Honor Recipient: University Distinguished Professor, Texas State University. March 2021 - Present
- Award / Honor Recipient: Honorary Professor of International Studies, Office of International Studies. November 13, 2018 - Present
- Award / Honor Recipient: 2020 College of Liberal Arts Achievement Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activity. December 2019 - August 2020
- Award / Honor Recipient: Sigma Tau Delta Outstanding Professor. April 2018
- Award / Honor Recipient: 2017 College of Liberal Arts Achievement for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activity. 2017
- Morrison, Susan S. Honorary Professors of International Studies Travel Grant, Texas State University, $1000. (Funded: October 2018). Grant.
- Morrison, Susan S. UT Center for European Studies: MSI Faculty Travel Grants 2016-2017, Institutional (Higher Ed). (Funded: August 2017). Grant.
- Morrison, Susan S. Pilgrimage Poetics: Material Culture and Literary Vibrancy, $6560.00. (Funded: 2016). Grant.
- Morrison, Susan (Principal). Research Support Grant. Images of Excrement in Late Medieval England, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Private / Foundation / Corporate. (Submitted: 2007). Grant.
- Morrison, Susan (Principal). Research Enhancement Grant, Project: The Cultural Poetics of Excrement in the Late Middle Ages, Institutional (Higher Ed). (Submitted: July 1, 2006). Grant.
Selected Service Activities
Director of Advanced Studies
August 26, 2019-Present
Assistant/Associate Professor Review Committee
Advanced Studies Committee
Director of the Medieval-Renaissance Interdisciplinary Minor
Director of the Medieval-Renaissance Interdisciplinary Minor
September 1, 1995-Present