Professor Susan Harlan featured in Wake Forest Magazine: “The Objects of Her Desires”

Susan Harlan, Associate Professor of English, was featured in The California Issue (Summer 2019) of Wake Forest Magazine. An excerpt follows. Read the full article on Wake Forest Magazine’s website.

The Objects of Her Desires

For Susan Harlan, author and associate professor of English, every kitschy, cherished, poignant item in her eclectic collection has a story.

Susan Harlan has a thing about things…

Photo of Professor Susan Harlan in her home, from the Summer 2019 feature in Wake Forest Magazine

Step into her 2,000-square-foot home in the West End neighborhood of Winston-Salem, and you will find stacks of dishes discarded from great-grandma country cupboards and bought at flea markets. On vividly painted walls are paint-by-number canvasses — two artists’ humble versions of the same painting, how lucky is that! — and yarn artwork. In rooms upstairs hang sparkly and sassy vintage dresses, blouses and hats, at the ready for a night on the town, from the 1950s to 1980s.

For this associate professor of English, author and native Californian, there is a carefully designed disorder to her collection of collections. “If there’s wall space, I try to hang something up,” she says.

What looks like epic clutter is anything but. The displays reflect Harlan’s scholarly interests, her wry commentary on culture — kitsch, popular, early modern — and especially her love of books. You’ll see them stacked with intention around the house, amid whimsical items and the collections’ darker side, which beckons Harlan, too, generally with a humorous wink. Taxidermy intrigues her, and Wentworth, her mounted deer head, holds an honored spot on the wall, not far from the old-school yellow dial telephone that rings no more. Skulls of all sizes and shapes mingle with Day of the Dead skeletons, reflecting her fascination with death culture.

Read the full article on Wake Forest Magazine’s website.


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