The Stuff of Our Forebears: Willa Cather's Southern Heritage

The Stuff of Our Forebears: Willa Cather's Southern Heritage

by Joyce McDonald

Paperback(First Edition)

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Connecting Cather's work to the southern literary tradition and the South of her youth

A diverse and experimental writer who lived most of her life in New York City, Willa Cather is best known for her depiction of pioneer life on the Nebraska plains. Despite Cather's association with Nebraska, however, the novelist's Virginia childhood and her southern family were deeply influential in shaping her literary imagination.

Joyce McDonald shows evidence, for example, of Cather's southern sensibility in the class consciousness and aesthetic values of her characters and in their sense of place and desire for historical continuity, a sensibility also evident in her narrative technique of weaving stories within stories and in her use of folklore. For McDonald, however, what most links Cather and her work to the South and to the southern literary tradition is her use of pastoral modes.

Beginning with an examination of Cather's Virginia childhood and the southern influences that continued to mold her during the Nebraska years, McDonald traces the effects of those influences in Cather's novels. The patterns that emerge reveal not only Cather's strong ideological connection to the pastoral but also the political position implicit in her choice of that particular mode. Further analysis of Cather's work reveals her preoccupation with hierarchical constructs and with the use and abuse of power and her interest in order, control, and possession. The Willa Cather who emerges from the pages of The Stuff of Our Forebears is not the Cather who claimed to eschew politics but a far more political novelist than has heretofore been perceived.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817359584
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 05/14/2019
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Joyce McDonald is the author of several books for children and young adults including Swallowing Stones and the Edgar Award-nominated Shades of Simon Gray.

Table of Contents

1. Cather's Southern Heritage and Pastoral Origins
2. Cather's New World Pastorals
3. The Pangs of Disillusionment: Cather's Antipastoral Subtext
4. For Their Own Good: Cather's Pastoral Histories
5. History and Memory: Cather's Garden of the Chattel

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