My Antonia

Cather, Willa Sibert

Willa Sibert Cather (sī´bərt kăŧħ´ər), 1873–1947, American novelist and short-story writer, b. Winchester, Va., considered one of the great American writers of the 20th cent. When she was nine her family moved to the Nebraska prairie frontier. She graduated from the Univ. of Nebraska in 1895 and worked as a journalist and as a teacher in Pittsburgh. In 1904 she went to New York City. The publication of The Troll Garden (1905), her first collection of short stories, led to her appointment to the editorial staff of McClure's Magazine. She eventually became managing editor and saved the magazine from financial disaster. After the publication of Alexander's Bridge in 1912, she left McClure's and devoted herself to creative writing. For many years she lived quietly in New York City's Greenwich Village. The first of her novels to deal with her major theme is O Pioneers! (1913), a celebration of the strength and courage of the frontier settlers. Other novels with this theme are My Ántonia (1918), One of Ours (1922; Pulitzer Prize), and A Lost Lady (1923). The Song of the Lark (1915) focuses on another of Cather's major preoccupations—the need of artists to free themselves from inhibiting influences, particularly that of a rural or small-town background; the tales collected in Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920) and the novel Lucy Gayheart (1935) also treat this theme. With success and increasing age Cather became convinced that the beliefs and way of life she valued were disappearing. This disillusionment is poignantly evident in her novel The Professor's House (1925). She subsequently turned to North America's far past for her material: to colonial New Mexico in Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), widely regarded as her masterpiece, and to 17th-century Quebec for Shadows on the Rock (1931), in both novels blending history with religious reverence and loving characterizations. The volumes My Mortal Enemy (1926) and The Old Beauty and Others (1948) present her highly skilled shorter fiction. Her intense interest in the craft of fiction is shown in the essays in Not Under Forty (1936) and On Writing (1949). Cather herself was a master of that craft, her novels and stories written in a pellucid style of great charm and stateliness.

See selected letters ed. by A. Jewell and J. Stout (2013); E. K. Brown and L. Edel, Willa Cather: A Critical Biography (1980); S. O'Brien, Willa Cather: the Emerging Voice (1987); J. Woodres, Willa Cather: A Literary Life (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

My Ántonia
Willa Cather.
Houghton Mifflin, 1954
Understanding O Pioneers! and My Ántonia: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Sheryl L. Meyering.
Greenwood Press, 2002
Ántonia
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1991
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
On the Divide: The Many Lives of Willa Cather
David Porter.
University of Nebraska Press, 2010
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Eight "My Antonia"
Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-Visioning Her Creative Imagination
Patrick W. Shaw.
Whitston, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "My Antonia: Emergence and Authorial Revelations"
Willa Cather's My Antonia: Haunting the Houses of Memory
Lucenti, Lisa Marie.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 46, No. 2, Summer 2000
Jim Burden's Lost Worlds: Exile in My Antonia
Holmes, Catherine D.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 45, No. 3, Fall 1999
Blood in the Wheat: Willa Cather's My Antonia
Tellefsen, Blythe.
Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 27, No. 2, Autumn 1999
"The Train of Thought": Classed Travel and Nationality in Willa Cather's My Antonia
Palmer, Scott.
Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 29, No. 2, Autumn 2001
Music in Willa Cather's Fiction
Richard Giannone.
University of Nebraska Press, 1968
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "My Antonia"
Isolation and Masquerade: Willa Cather's Women
Frances W. Kaye.
Peter Lang, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Full Dress Masquerade"
Gender on the Divide: The Dandy in Modernist Literature
Jessica R. Feldman.
Cornell University Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "After Gender: Allusion and Analogy in My Antonia" begins on p. 173
Willa Cather's Ecological Imagination
Susan J. Rosowski.
University of Nebraska Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "My Antonia and the National Parks Movement" begins on p. 44, "Biocentric, Homocentric, and Theocentric Environmentalism in O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and Death Comes for the Archbishop" begins on p. 64, "The Observant Eye, the Art of Illustration, and Will
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