A Book of Modern Essays

By Bruce Welker McCullough; Edwin Berry Burgum | Go to book overview

THE NOVEL DÉMEUBLÉ*

WILLA CATHER

( Willa Sibert Cather was born in Winchester, Virginia, December 7, 1876. Her impressionable years were spent in the West however, for, when she was nine years old, her family settled on a ranch in Nebraska. After attending high school at the town of Red Cloud and being graduated from the University of Nebraska, she entered newspaper work and was on the staff of the Pittsburgh Daily Leader from 1897 to 1901. From 1906 to 1912 she was an assistant editor of McClure's Magazine.

After writing verse and short stories she turned to the novel and is now known as one of our best contemporary novelists. In The Song of the Lark, My Antonia, and the opening chapters of One of Ours, she has given us warm and colorful pictures of life among the immigrants on the prairie lands. A Lost Lady serves best to illustrate the theories set forth in this essay. In the earlier novels she had not altogether freed herself from subjection to external details -- to furniture. But in A Lost Lady she achieves a detachment from her material which enables her to present her scene by suggestion rather than by the laborious enumeration of details. As she points out, external things are important for the novelist only as they express the emotions of people, not in themselves. In fiction, as in other arts, the artist, by some secret of his own creative genius, escapes the necessity of communicating his impression of life directly and literally. The more he resorts to description and exposition the less his picture will have in it the same elusive and intangible quality of life itself. Art represents; it cannot explain that which

____________________
*
From The New Republic, Vol. 30, 1922.

-389-

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A Book of Modern Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents ix
  • "Highbrow" and "Lowbrow" 1
  • What is a Puritan? 17
  • Portrait of a Family 45
  • The Norwegian Migration to America 63
  • The West and American Ideals 79
  • The Once Open Road 101
  • Sentimental America 113
  • Louisiana: (Madame de la Louisiane) 127
  • Fez 141
  • The Rhythm of Life 147
  • Summer 153
  • On an Unknown Country 161
  • Ideals and Day-Dreams 169
  • Castles in Spain 187
  • Science and the Faith of the Modern 201
  • On Friendship 219
  • A Relic 225
  • The Cheerful Breakfast Table 235
  • Conversation 249
  • Trivia 259
  • On Jargon 265
  • Names Practical and Poetic 285
  • The American Language 297
  • What the American Rhodes Scholar Gets from Oxford 321
  • Literary Taste 339
  • Dickens 347
  • The Vicar of Wakefield 365
  • Don Quixote 373
  • The Novel Démeublé 389
  • The Politics of Martha and of Mary 397
  • Autumn Tints in Chivalry 419
  • Index of Authors 431
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