Flyleaf Books will host author Susan Harlan to discuss her book, “Luggage,” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The book is part of the Object Lessons series, a collection of books that explore the hidden lives of ordinary things. Harlan is an associate professor of English at Wake Forest University. Staff writer Jackson Byrne talked to Harlan about her writing process for "Luggage."
The Daily Tar Heel: Could you tell me a little bit about your book “Luggage” and what it’s about?
Susan Harlan: I am an English professor. I’ve been at Wake Forest for eight years, and my scholarship centers on material culture in Renaissance England, so I write a lot about masculinity and militarism, and the material world of war in the 16th and 17th centuries in England — and my academic focus on armor. But I found over the last couple of years that, while I really like writing about objects and I really enjoy writing about objects academically, I kind of wanted to take a different approach at this point and write a different kind of book.
I travel a lot, and I drive around the South a lot with my dog, and I do a lot of road trips — and I find that over the years, I got to thinking about luggage and about the things we bring with us, and we leave home and why. By that I mean both the actual containers and also the things we choose to put in the containers — because I feel like when we use the word “luggage,” we’re kind of referring to both of those things.
I’m a collector, and I actually have a collection of vintage luggage. It's one of the many collections I’ve amassed over the years. So, the interest was also kind of personal, and I wanted the book to move back and forth between literary representations of luggage, movies, personal experience, and just be a little bit like a packed suitcase. Honestly, that’s the way I’m kind of thinking about it.