Willa Cather: A Writer's Worlds

Willa Cather: A Writer's Worlds

Willa Cather: A Writer's Worlds

Willa Cather: A Writer's Worlds

Synopsis

The essays in Cather Studies, Volume 8 explore the many locales and cultures informing Willa Cather's fiction. A lifelong Francophile, Cather first visited France in 1902 and returned repeatedly throughout her life. Her visits to France influenced not only her writing but also her interpretation of other worlds: for example, while visiting the American Southwest in 1912, a region that informed her subsequent works, she first viewed that landscape through the prism of her memories of Provence. Cather's intellectual intercourse between the Old and the New World was a two-way street, moving both people and cultural mores between the two. But her worlds extended far beyond France, or even geographical locations. This new volume pairs Cather innovatively with additional influences- theological, aesthetic, even gastronomical- and examines her as tourist and traveler cautiously yet assiduously exploring a diverse range of places, ethnicities, and professions.

Excerpt

Françoise Palleau-Papin and Robert Thacker

Summarizing a 1931 estimate of New York critics that Willa Cather wrote to Norman Foerster, James Woodress notes that “Randolph Bourne, who died in 1918, and to a lesser extent Henry Canby … were the only critics she thought much of. They had an instantaneous perception about quality. It was like having an ear for music: you could tell when a singer flats or you couldn’t. It was instinctive; you couldn’t learn it.” Woodress concludes: “she really didn’t think much of professional critics. James and Pater—also Mérimée—were the critics she liked best” (423). Compared to such August figures, other critics paled, and academic critics were usually seen as nuisances. Yet whatever Cather herself thought of academic critics—and it should be acknowledged that she tried to enter university teaching after she graduated from college and later taught critic-to-be Foerster in her high school English classes in Pittsburgh—the very qualities that readers find paramount in her works require scholarly and critical analysis.

Among the critical pieces Cather’s French translator Marc Chénetier refers to in his wide-ranging, erudite, and witty keynote address to the Eleventh International Cather Seminar in June 2007 (which we have positioned to introduce “Cather and France,” the first group of papers selected from that seminar) is . . .

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