'The Novel Démeublé' is Willa Cather's most influential and, for all its plain-spokenness, most enigmatic statement of the principles of her novelistic art. 'How wonderful,' she writes, 'it would be if we could throw all the furniture out of the window; and along with it, all the meaningless reiterations concerning physical sensations, all the tiresome old patterns, and leave the room as bare as the stage of a Greek theatre, or as that house into which the glory of Pentecost descended …' Cather insists not just on ridding the house of fiction of its superfluous and meaningless clutter, but in stripping it bare – an indication of the drastic narrative and spiritual economies she deems essential to its artistic integrity and, indeed, survival. This essay explores what is demanded and what is foreseen in Cather's call for a radical divestiture of the novel's traditional furnishings by attending to that concluding image of the novel démeublé as a Pentecostal chamber in which numinous reality is translated into the common tongue. Such novelistic miracles are not only possible but necessary to the moral and historical realism of her two finest novels, Death Comes to the Archbishop and The Professor's House.


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pp. 1073-1085
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