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Cather Studies, Volume 5

Willa Cather's Ecological Imagination

Cather Studies

Publication Year: 2003

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.”

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Cather Studies


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pp. v-vi

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Editorial Policy

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pp. vii-viii

Cather Studies, a forum for Cather scholarship and criticism, is published biennially by the University of Nebraska Press. Submissions are invited on all aspects of Cather studies: biography, various critical approaches to the art of Cather, her...

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pp. ix

Read together, the essays in this volume introduce us to the greening of literary studies, a.k.a. ecological literary studies, ecocriticism, environmental literary studies—all terms for a field that is young, in flux, and determined to remain so. These...

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Nature and Human Nature

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pp. 1-27

For the prospective interdisciplinarian, the cluster of ideas surrounding the terms place and human nature increasingly offers literary scholars across-field entry into interesting territory. To begin with place, Aristotle announced in his Physics...

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A Guided Tour of Ecocriticism, with Excursions to Catherland

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pp. 28-43

My own journey to ecocriticism transpired via a series of environmentally preoccupied conference papers onWilla Cather.1 After working the ground in Cather's fiction for several years I felt the need to formulate a general critical manifesto, which I presented with some trepidation at the 1989 Western Literature...

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My Antonia and the National Parks Movement

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pp. 44-63

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued proclamations establishing Muir Woods National Monument (California); Grand Canyon National Monument (Arizona); Pinnacles National Monument (California); Jewel Cave National Monument...

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Biocentric, Homocentric, and theocentric Environmentalism in O Pioneers

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pp. 64-76

The classical statement of ecological ethics is Aldo Leopold "The Land Ethic," published posthumously in 1949 as the last part of A Sand County Almanac. Leopold observed that human ethical sensitivity can be seen as a gradually widening circle of beings respected as possessing intrinsic worth. That...

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Will Cather: The Plow and the Pen

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pp. 77-88

Environmental imagination is not a term that lends itself to precise definition, but most of us recognize it when we encounter its symptoms. It is there in Gary Snyder's lifelong exploration of connections between the human soul and natural...

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Willa Cather, Learner

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pp. 104-117

Three years ago, my wife Jan and I were enjoying an autumn Sunday morning in The Mill, in Lincoln, when, as it seemed,Willa Cather walked slowly past our little table. Dressed for church as a good, still family-involved twelve-year-old ought...

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The Comic Form of Willa Cather's Art

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pp. 103-127

Applied to literary studies, ecology's principle of interconnection might be that reading a book in isolation is akin to reading a single chapter from a novel. It is a principle especially true for Willa Cather, who exhibited a lifelong attempt to see...

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The Observant Eye, the Art of Illustration

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pp. 128-152

In early 1919 Willa Cather wrote to her friend from childhood, Carrie Miner Sherwood, inquiring whether Carrie had received the gift she had sent her for Christmas, a print of Albrecht Dürer's watercolor of a hare.1 The painting shows a single animal...

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Social (Re)Visionnig in the Fields of My Antonia

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pp. 153-172

My A´ntonia is above all else a story of stories. It is a story of how we tell stories, and it is also a story of reading, of how we read the stories before us. On a grand scale, it tells the story of America's immigrants, the story of their settlement, their assimilation, their adaptation of colonial notions of the new frontier...

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Modernist Space

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pp. 173-189

The organization of space represents the meeting point between the writer and her environment. One of the things that Cather's writing teaches us is that space, especially "natural" space, is always mediated, always shaped. Even if humankind...

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Wagner, Place, and the Growth of Pessimism in the Fiction of Willa Cather

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pp. 190-198

In 1925 Willa Cather honored Gertrude Hall, the author of an unexceptional and occasionally florid layman's guide to the operas of Richard Wagner, by contributing a brief introduction to the re-publication of Hall's book, The Wagnerian Romances....

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Willa Cather's Great Emersonian Environmental Quartet

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pp. 199-215

"There are many ways of handling environment—most of them bad, "Willa Cather declared in her 1899 review of Frank Norris (Stories 922). Yet when used correctly, she added, environmental description can be "a positive and active force, stimulating...

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The Creative Ecology of Walnut Canyon

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pp. 216-236

From the time of Aristotle through the romantic period, art has been viewed as an imitation of nature. However, a closer study of the relationship between art and ecology, or the study of the relationship of human beings and other organisms to their...

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Unmasking Willa Cather's "Mortal Enemy"

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pp. 237-272

For many years, scholars have regarded My Mortal Enemy as somewhat of an enigma. Written in only a few months during the early spring of 1925 and published both serially and in book form in 1926, Cather's shortest novel was sandwiched...

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Admiring and Remembering

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pp. 288-305

For many years, scholars have regarded My Mortal Enemy as somewhat of an enigma. Written in only a few months during the early spring of 1925 and published both serially and in book form in 1926, Cather's shortest novel was sandwiched...

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Character, Compromise, and Idealism in Willa Cather's Gardens

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pp. 291-308

In the early pages of The Song of the Lark Willa Cather establishes the garden, that intensively humanized parcel of nature, as a deeply informative figure. Here it appears to the novel's...


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pp. 324-327


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pp. 313-327

E-ISBN-13: 9780803202429
E-ISBN-10: 0803202423

Page Count: 327
Illustrations: Illus.
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Cather Studies