The wide-ranging essays collected in this volume of Cather Studies examine Willa Cather’s unique artistic relationship to the environment. Under the theoretical rubric of ecocriticism, these essays focus on Cather’s close observations of the natural world and how the environment proves, for most of these contributors, to be more than simply a setting for her characters. While it is certain that Cather’s novels and short stories are deeply grounded in place, literary critics are only now considering how place functions within her narratives and addressing environmental issues through her writing.
These essays reintroduce us to a Cather who is profoundly identified with the places that shaped her and that she wrote about: Glen A. Love offers an interdisciplinary reading of The Professor’s House that is scientifically oriented; Joseph Urgo argues that My Ántonia models a preservationist aesthetic in which landscape and memory are inextricably entangled; Thomas J. Lyon posits that Cather had a living sense of the biotic community and used nature as the standard of excellence for human endeavors; and Jan Goggans considers the ways that My Ántonia shifts from nativism toward a “flexible notion of place-based community.”