Willa Cather: The Critical Conversation

Article number: Squire WCTCC
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A contextualizing overview of the polarized critical reception of Willa Cather, one of the pre-eminent US authors of the twentieth-century by Dr. Kelsey Squire, Associate Professor of English at Dominican University in Ohio.

Published by Boydell & Brewer: June 2020
Camden House imprint
Hardcover: 184 Pages

The ever-growing body of criticism on Willa Cather and her fiction is indicative of her enduring position as a pre-eminent figure of twentieth-century American literature. It has been spurred by the challenge of situating Cather in relation to established critical approaches. Since the 1920s, Cather's work has been praised by critics for its realism, innovative form, and diversity; simultaneously, it has been derided as nostalgic, anti-modern, and narrow.Drawing on monographs, edited collections, journal articles, and society publications, Willa Cather: The Critical Conversation provides Cather scholars and students at the graduate and undergraduate levels with an accessible overview of Cather's critical reception through the first two decades of the twenty-first century. In addition to providing a valuable resource for research and teaching on Cather, the book also speaks to broader issues such as canon formation and historical trends in literary criticism that are relevant to American literature and culture as a whole. This book provides a solid understanding of the major issues in Cather criticism over time, with an eye toward how the conversation may continue for decades to come.


  • Introduction
  • Willa Cather's Mercurial Position Among the Critics, 1918-1949
  • The Author and the Archetype: Biographical and Thematic Approaches to Cather
  • Critical Conversations on Gender and Sexuality
  • The Sociohistorical Cather: Approaches to Race, War, and the Environment
  • Cather in the Literary Marketplace: Authorial Criticism, Archival Studies, and Book-Historical Criticism
  • Afterword: "Having It Out," or Continuing the Critical Conversation
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