Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-Visioning Her Creative Imagination

Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-Visioning Her Creative Imagination

Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-Visioning Her Creative Imagination

Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-Visioning Her Creative Imagination

Synopsis

"Although some scholars may object to the hyper-close relationship of this analysis to Cather's personal life, the end result is a challenging and intriguing addition to Cather scholarship."¿Choice

Excerpt

Like many artists, Willa Cather knew personal conflict. She was a free thinker reared amidst Calvinist dogma; a materialist acutely aware of the limited worth of "things"; an optimist who wanted to retain faith; a skeptic prone to depression and despair. In her fiction, successful marriages, happy families, and satisfying personal relationships are as scarce as summer rain in the New Mexican desert. Suicide marks her pages like the Platte River cuts Nebraska. Of all her conflicts, however, none is more acute or controversial than her sexuality. There are those who maintain that Cather was not homoerotic. For instance, in an interview published in the Omha World-Herald (1984), Susan J. Rosowski and Mildred Bennett advocate Cather's heterosexuality and maintain that her interest in other women was nothing more than school-girl crushes (Cather Scholar 4). Sharon O'Brien , first in several essays and then in Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice, and others elsewhere have argued rather convincingly that Cather was homosexual, though the term itself is usually avoided. O'Brien's phraseology is that Cather was "a woman whose primary intimacies were with other women" and that "her fiction reveals that she found sexuality and passion troublesome forces" (Mothers 267). Cather's homoerotic conflicts were resolved, O'Brien argues, after she met Sarah Orne Jewett and learned to identify with her own femaleness and "commit herself to the artist's vocation" (277). O Pioneers! is Cather's declaration of independence as a female artist. With it Cather "resolved the conflicts that had kept 'woman' and 'artist' apart" and afterwards her novels flowed in "a steady stream" of integrated selfhood (282). James Woodress, somewhat ill at ease with the "Contemporary frankness" that "raises the question of lesbianism" (141) is noticeably politic:

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