Cover

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Series Page, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright, In Memoriam

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Willa Cather at the Modernist Crux

Ann Moseley, John J. Murphy, Robert Thacker

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pp. xi-xx

When in My Ántonia Willa Cather concludes the story of Mr. Shimerda’s burial, his grave having been placed by Mrs. Shimerda and Ambrosch at “the southwest corner of their own land,” perhaps to satisfy an old Bohemian custom that a suicide be buried at a crossroads, she explains through Jim Burden how the roads that came later, as his grandfather had foreseen, ...

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Prologue: Gifts from the Museum: Catherian Epiphanies in Context

John J. Murphy

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pp. 1-16

About a year ago, while helping one of my grandsons with a college English assignment, I rediscovered Wallace Stevens’s 1942 poem “Of Modern Poetry” and was surprised how applicable it is to the Cather canon, a body of work distinguished by the task of constructing a new stage during an age when the set script used by many generations of poets had become what Stevens refers to as “a souvenir” (line 6). ...

Part 1. Beginnings

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1. The Compatibility of Art and Religion for Willa Cather: From the Beginning

Steven B. Shively

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pp. 19-42

The touchstone for this essay is Godfrey St. Peter’s statement to his students in The Professor’s House (1925) that “Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course) have given man the only happiness he has ever had” (69). The Professor asserts that art and religion are compatible, that they are—or at least have the potential to be—equal ...

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2. Thea in Wonderland: Willa Cather’s Revision of the Alice Novels and the Gender Codes of the Western Frontier

Michelle E. Moore

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pp. 43-63

William M. Curtin claims that Lewis Carroll “was one of Cather’s great enthusiasms” as indicated by her membership in the Lewis Carroll club at the University of Nebraska. In a letter to Mariel Gere dated 12 March 1896, Willa Cather explains how she relieved her boredom in Red Cloud by reading Alice in Wonderland to her ten-year-old brother, James. ...

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3. Ántonia and Hiawatha: Spectacles of the Nation

John J. Murphy

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pp. 64-90

In an 1882 photograph taken in Washington DC, Willa Cather, aged about nine, wears a cross on a cotton lace dress and grips a bow and arrow fully her own height (fig. 3.1). She is out-fitted for a recitation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha (1855). At the ripe moment in her performance ...

Part 2. Presences

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4. Willa Cather, Howard Pyle, and “The Precious Message of Romance”

Richard C. Harris

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pp. 93-112

In the poem “Dedicatory,” which opens April Twilights, Willa Cather wonderfully evokes the sense of childhood play. The poem, dedicated to her brothers Douglass and Roscoe, recaptures the world of the Cather children’s youth and their “vanished kingdom” “on an island in a western river,” where they and other playmates talked of “war and ocean venture, ...

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5. “Then a Great Man in American Art”: Willa Cather’s Frederic Remington

Robert Thacker

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pp. 113-131

Among the most discussed scenes in Cather’s fiction is the beginning of the narrative proper of My Ántonia. Ten-year-old orphan Jim Burden has embarked from Virginia for Nebraska in the company of Jake Marpole, “one of the ‘hands’ on my father’s old farm under the Blue Ridge,” Jim writes, and the two travel west “all the way by day-coaches, ...

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6. Willa Cather, Ernest L. Blumenschein, and “The Painting of Tomorrow”

James A. Jaap

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pp. 132-148

Willa Cather was both enamored of and inspired by the region, people, and culture of the American Southwest. Scholars have had a lot to say about her relationship to this region, but even so, gaps remain. One unexplored aspect of Cather’s Southwest experiences is her relationship with the modernist American painter Ernest L. Blumenschein. ...

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7. From The Song of the Lark to Lucy Gayheart, and Die Walküre to Die Winterreise

David Porter

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pp. 149-169

Cather’s familiar words from 1896 provide an apt entrée to the relationship between The Song of the Lark and Lucy Gayheart. Song, published in 1915, traces the long and hard journey by which its heroine moves from early intimations of her musical talent to their brilliant realization. Lucy, published twenty years later, ...

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8. The Trafficking of Mrs. Forrester: Prostitution and Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady

Charmion Gustke

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pp. 170-187

In a letter addressed to her mother, Mary Virginia Boak Cather, on 2 March 1925, Willa Cather, seeking her mother’s forgiveness after a quarrel, reminds her that the last time they had been “cross” at one another was “about poor Mrs. Garber”: “and you see now, don’t you, that I understood her better than you thought I did, and that though I admired certain things, ...

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9. The Outlandish Hands of Fred Demmler: Pittsburgh Prototypes in The Professor’s House

Timothy W. Bintrim

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pp. 188-213

Complaining of prototype hunters to her lifelong friend Carrie Miner Sherwood, Willa Cather muttered, “You can never get it through people’s heads that a story is made out of an emotion or an excitement, and is not made out of the legs and arms and faces of one’s acquaintances” (Letters 492; Cather’s emphasis). ...

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10. Translating the Southwest: The 1940 French Edition of Death Comes for the Archbishop

Mark J. Madigan

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pp. 214-226

Marc Chénetier wrote that all translations are doomed to a degree of failure “the way all writing fails compared with the dazzling, burning desire behind it” (42). Cervantes put it a different way: “Translation is the other side of a tapestry” (877). Most famously, Robert Frost commented, “Poetry is what is lost in translation” (Untermeyer 18). ...

Part 3. Articulation: The Song of the Lark

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11. Elements of Modernism in The Song of the Lark

Ann Moseley

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pp. 229-252

When literary critics think of Willa Cather and modernism, they think first of A Lost Lady and The Professor’s House, perhaps even of My Ántonia, but they hardly ever think of The Song of the Lark. However, if we expand our parameters and definitions of modernism beyond the “high modernism” of the 1920s, as Richard Lehan and other literary historians such as Ricardo J. Quinones, ...

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12. “The Earliest Sources of Gladness”: Reading the Deep Map of Cather’s Southwest

Diane Prenatt

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pp. 253-270

Willa Cather discovered the American Southwest a decade after she discovered Europe. I use the word “discovered” deliberately, despite its postcolonial baggage, because for Cather, to encounter a landscape was to discern what it had to reveal, to uncover its meaning. As a child transplanted from Virginia to Nebraska, she may have developed an early disposition for such discoveries, ...

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13. Re(con)ceiving Experience: Cognitive Science and Creativity in The Song of the Lark

Joshua Doležal

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pp. 271-288

Anyone hazarding a scientific reading of Willa Cather’s work might take warning from her scorn for her former professor Lucius Sherman at the University of Nebraska. Sherman’s Analytics of Literature (1893) counted word frequency and used equations to measure sentence length and “ratios of force” (Woodress 80). In his preface, Sherman claims great success with his “objective” method in literature classes: ...

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14. Women and Vessels in The Song of the Lark and Shadows on the Rock

Angela Conrad

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pp. 289-302

Many Cather scholars are drawn to the powerful figure of Thea in The Song of the Lark as she comes to know herself and become an artist during her time spent in Panther Canyon. In the canyon she contemplates the vessels of pottery left by the ancient cliff dwellers, connecting them in her imagination with art in their ability to capture and contain life. ...

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Epilogue: The Difference That Letters Make: A Meditation on The Selected Letters of Willa Cather

Andrew Jewell, Janis Stout

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pp. 303-326

Anyone who works on Cather knows what a difference it makes to have or not to have the letters. Years of difficult access and the need to paraphrase, or to read only in someone else’s paraphrases, approximate at best, fastened our eyes toward a hoped-for future when the letters themselves, or at least some of them, would be readily accessible in print. ...

Contributors

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pp. 327-332

Index

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pp. 333-358