Critical Essays On Willa Cather

Now God be praised for prejudice, for it is prejudice which makes predilections what they ought to be. But to talent, prejudice is a friendly guide, shaping it after its natural bent. She dislikes all that Walter Scott used to call the Big Bow-wows. She shuns the crowd, and the things the crowd care for. For her fastidious talent America has especial need.

Neither Miss Cather’s prejudices nor her predilections have undergone much change since she came out of the West.

Lindemann is probably the first scholar to arrive at a way of “doing” Cather criticism that matches the author’s own proliferating and multiple discursiveness.

The skein running through this critical quilt might be crudely summarized as follows: Cather, a lesbian, “queered” America by radically questioning and critiquing traditional modes of representation. In fact, as Lindemann applies it in a range of contexts, the word at times becomes bleached of meaning.

To anyone who, in those ancient days, walked up the carpeted stairs, past keepsakes and mementoes, tall octavos of Dryden, Donne, and Herbert, turning right through the long quiet parlor to draw a chair beside the sofa where, in lace cap and rustling silk, Mrs.

Fields lay under the portrait of Dickens, - not yet cynical and bearded, but in his twenties and glowing in the confidence of genius, - Miss Cather’s memories stir a thousand others.

That she declined to press so fortunate an accident is wholly characteristic.

She refused an invitation to visit her friend at Antibes. Not a mote in the sunbeam which floated through the windows of the long parlor but had danced there in the great days when Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow had routed the incredulity of Thackeray and of Dickens as to the existence of American culture.

Joseph Urgo’s Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration (1995) and my own Willa Cather in Context (1996) uncovered a Cather attuned to a progressive, even liberal agenda: a writer fascinated by otherness and a postmodern sense of mobility.

Marilee Lindemann’s Willa Cather: Queering America widens this progressive school.


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