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DLL's Spring Program "Beyond Spring Cleaning: Confronting the Strange Magic of Personal Possessions," will be held on April 30, 2024 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Friday Conference Center.

Julia Ridley Smith, Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of English & Comparative Literature
Tuesday, April 30 from 6:00 – 7:30PM. Registration encouraged. Campus Learning Experience (CLE).

Book cover with broken porcelain cups.Many of us have been—or will be—called upon to clean out the home of a loved one or cull our own possessions when moving or downsizing. When the antique-dealer parents of writer and professor Julia Ridley Smith passed away, they left behind a house chock full of furniture, books, artifacts, and paper. Smith wrote about the huge task of going through it all in her first book The Sum of Trifles. Her thoughtful, tender, and often funny memoir explores the strange magic of objects, what they mean to us, and how hard it can be to let them go.

In this lecture, Smith will share excerpts from her book, discuss how material culture shapes our identities, and how we often think of our possessions as defining who we are and even what we can do. She’ll talk about the challenges of tackling a house clean-out when grief makes it difficult to give up cherished objects. While the topic can feel heavy, she approaches it with humor, reminding us that there’s also room during a house cleanout for finding joy, discovery, and human connection. After the lecture, there will be a brief, optional writing activity, with plenty of time for questions, discussion and book signing. Join us for an insightful and engaging session!


Julia Ridley Smith is the author of The Sum of Trifles, a memoir in essays, and Sex Romp Gone Wrong, a short story collection. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Electric Literature, the New England Review, and The Southern Review, among other publications, and her nonfiction was recognized as notable in The Best American Essays 2019. She’s been awarded scholarships, fellowships, and residencies by the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony, the Cuttyhunk Island Residency, and the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities. After earning her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, she worked for nearly twenty years as a freelance copyeditor of academic books. She’s taught creative writing and literature at UNC Greensboro, as well as art-based writing workshops for educators and other adults at the Weatherspoon Art Museum. She was the 2021-22 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


UNC Students: for Campus Learning Experience credit, please register here.