Madison Morrison's Web / About MM

MADISON MORRISON: A bio-bibliography

Born June 28, 1940, I grew up in North American cities, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago, where my father worked as a sales executive for US Steel. I attended primary and secondary schools in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan before completing my secondary education with two years at The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. In 1961, at the age of 20, I graduated from Yale. In 1962 I received a master's degree, in 1969, a doctorate from Harvard, in English and American Literature. I wrote a dissertation on the American poet, Wallace Stevens. During a two-year interval, 1965-1967, I taught for The University of Maryland on military bases in Germany (at Spangdahlem, Rhein-Main and Darmstadt), in France (at Garches and St. Germain, in the environs of Paris), again in Germany (at Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden) and, finally, in Greece (at Iraklion). Married in 1963, I spent the summers with my wife at her parents' cook's retirement home in Brittany. During this period I became quite fluent in German and French, a fluency later sacrificed to Chinese. In the summer of 1960 I studied enough Russian to sing folk songs in the Yale Russian Chorus and tour the then Soviet Union, arguing politics in public places with its citizens after impromptu concerts. I now read enough Italian to understand literary correspondence. Earlier I had studied Latin, in high school and as preparation for a graduate school exam, which enabled me to read a few books of the Aeneid. I studied neither Greek nor Sanskrit, but in India, Thailand and China as well as in the USA and Europe I have taught in translation Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese, along with modern continental European, literature. For a dozen years I taught English literature in a Chinese university.

Having served as assistant in humanities courses at Harvard, 1963-1965, and as instructor for two years with Maryland, I returned to serve as tutor at Harvard, 1967-1969, while I was completing my dissertation under Harry Levin's supervision. This led to my first professorship in 1969 at The University of Oklahoma, where I specialized in modern British and American poetry. During a 23-year career in Norman I expanded my academic interests by offering three courses in the literature and art of Dada-Surrealism, four in film history and criticism, many in comparative European literature, one in Chinese landscape painting, another in the foundations of Indic culture and civilization. I also taught American literature, religious texts and creative writing. While on sabbatical leave from Oklahoma I wrote half the chapters of a collaborative novel, Revolution, those concerned with ancient China and contemporary France. In describing Paris through the eyes of a contemporary Breton (see Chapters 4 and 8) and a character transported from ancient China to contemporary France (see Chapter 6), I practiced in situ writing for the first time. Seven years later, on a second sabbatical leave, I composed Realization, a travelogue of the USA that interweaves the Upanishads, Dhammapada and Bhagavad Gita with in situ description of three round trips, from Norman to Houston, from Norman to Boston and from Norman to San Francisco. I attended a National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar in Chinese Literature at Stanford, and other grants, from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, allowed me to finish two books. My first publications were pamphlets of verse, Girls (Milwaukee, WI: Morgan Press, 1976) and Poems (New York: Paranthèse, 1977).

During the summer of 1975 I conceived my life-long project, the cosmological epic, Sentence of the Gods. At the time I had already finished its first three volumes, which later appeared as Sleep, O and Light (Norman, OK: The Working Week Press, 1981, 1982, 1983); U, Need and A followed but had to await publication till SOLUNA: Collected Earlier Poems (New Delhi: Sterling, 1989). The seventh book, Revolution, co-authored by Dan Boord, appeared first in its original twelve-chapter version (Taipei: Bookman Books, 1985), thirteen years later, in a five-chapter, bilingual English-Chinese redaction, MM's Revolution (Taipei: East & West, 1998). The eighth book, Each (St. Petersburg: The Working Week Press, 2000), followed. The next two books, one based upon the Bible, the other, upon Homer and Vergil, appeared four years later as the diptych Every Second (Alexandria: The Working Week Press, 2004). Magic (Memphis: The Working Week Press, 2000), the eleventh book in the sequence, had preceded the diptych, as had the twelfth, Realization, whose first two installments, Realization,I and Realization,II (Norman, OK: Poetry Around, 1986, 1988) were followed by the Anterem edition of the complete text (Verona: Anterem Edizioni, 1996). Engendering, thirteenth in the sequence, first appeared in the USA (Norman, OK: Poetry Around, 1990), twelve years later in Taiwan (Taipei: Cosmos Culture, 2002) with a Chinese preface by Han Wei-min and an English afterward by Frank W. Stevenson, titled "Sign and Ritual in Morrison's Engendering." Of the next four books in the Sentence only the seventeenth, All, has yet appeared, in a collection of five books titled SCENES FROM THE PLANET: In, All, Excelling, Or, Divine (New Delhi: Sterling, 2001).

Possibly, the eighteenth book in the sequence, based upon the hypertext of Cervantes, and still in progress, will draw upon my experience, during a 1999-2000 trip around the world, of the Luso-Hispanic realms of South America and Iberia. The nineteenth, an epic of India, for which I gathered material during a 1988-1989 assignment as Fulbright Lecturer, has appeared as Happening (New Delhi: Sterling, 1997). Renewed, the twentieth book, also in progress, will draw upon my experience of Alexandria, the Nile and Cairo. Taking Spenser as hypertext, it will follow the tripartite structure (Books I-II, III-IV and V-VI) of his Faerie Queene. Or, the twenty-first book, a study of Thailand, appeared originally in the USA (Bellows Falls, VT: Tiger Moon, 1999) and has been reprinted in Scenes from the Planet. The twenty-second, an allegory of northern Italy, which takes Dante as its hypertext and alludes to his Divina Commedia, to Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and to Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, like In, the twenty-third, a study of four Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark), appeared for the first time in Scenes from the Planet. There remain only three books in the sequence: This, the twenty-fourth, will combine Ovid's Metamorphoses with Lady Murasaki's Diary, Roman with Japanese history. (I hope to find a Japanese versed in Roman culture and tolerant of my ignorance of Japan, so that we may collaborate.) The twenty-fifth book, Excelling, describes my 1992 trip to China's southernmost provinces; it appeared for the first time in Scenes from the Planet. The twenty-sixth book, the most diverse in the Sentence, consists of interviews and in situ description interwoven with various texts, many of them scientific. Life, as it is called, will include American, European and Asian material.

General surveys of Sentence of the Gods, commentaries on its individual books, visual pieces, interviews and translations may be found in MM: The Sentence Commuted (Norman, OK: Sentence of the Gods Press, 2005, Introduction by Richard Beck). This anthology includes 60 contributions by 48 artists, critics and writers in 20 languages. Earlier criticism includes Ron Phelps, The Sentence of Madison Morrison (Norman, OK: Sentence of the Gods Press, 1999) and MADISON MORRISON: Critical Perspectives (I) (Bellows Falls, VT: Tiger Moon, 2000). The first academic monograph to deal with the oeuvre is Frank W. Stevenson, Chaos and Cosmos in Morrison's Sentence of the Gods (Bangalore: St. Joseph's Press, 2005). My own literary criticism has been collected in Particular and Universal: Essays in Asian, European and American Literature (Taipei: Crane, 1999), five of which have been translated into Italian by Alessio Rosoldi and introduced by Flavio Ermini as Particolare e Universale: Riflessioni sulla letteratura in Asia, Africa, Europa e America (Verona: Anterem Edizioni, 2004). Two more five-essay editions, in German and Korean, are in progress. Other books of possible interest are the original English-Chinese edition of my Selected Poems (Taipei: Blue Star, 1985) and the Indian edition of its English text (New Delhi: Arnold, 1989). I have taught in seven countries and given over 170 lectures in eighteen countries plus dozens of teaching demonstrations in primary and secondary schools. I am available for readings and for lectures or seminars, anywhere in the world, on art history, religion, philosophy, geography, politics, pedagogy and of course literature and writing.