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5BANKSTREET  December 2012

5BANKSTREET December 2012

Subject:

New Cather Essay

From:

"Christine E. Kephart" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

5 Bank Street: The Listserv for Willa Cather Scholars

Date:

Mon, 17 Dec 2012 20:12:23 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (37 lines)

Dear Colleagues,

I humbly post this to let you all know of my latest essay "On Becoming 
Neighbor Rosicky: Willa Cather, William James and the Constructs of 
Well-Being," a contribution to the collection The Eudaimonic Turn:  Well-
Being in Literary Studies (FDU Press, 2013).  I hope you enjoy it, and I 
look forward to feedback.  -Christine

Here's a summary: "Just as Bordelon turns the dismissal of religion on 
its head, so does Christine E. Kephart, in chapter 10, upset 
conventional wisdom by challenging notions of happiness in a 
discussion of two icons of American thought: Willa Cather and William 
James. Her essay is a sophisticated discussion of a modern American 
novelist who resisted suspicion while remaining modern in narrative 
approach and theory and a philosopher whose ideas continue to impact 
theories of well-being. Kephart specifically argues that Cather’s short 
story “Neighbor Rosicky” incorporates concepts of happiness derived 
from James’s influential philosophies in Varieties
of Religious Experience and Pragmatism, including the conversion of the
twice-born sick soul and the theory of pragmatism. Kephart explores 
how Cather paints in the fictional Rosicky the portrait of a Jamesian
pragmatist and converted soul whose story conveys an understanding of
the sometimes complex ways one comes to a life of well-being. Rosicky 
is thus associated with James’s image of Tolstoy and with Christian and
nature imagery, like trees and roots. He is a character developed with
real human qualities, as symbolized by Cather’s focus on his hands and
eyes, two features indicating his action-oriented pragmatism, and how 
he spends his time, after finding his own way to flourishing, caring for 
the wellness of others in his community. In building a narrative about 
the constructs of well-being, Cather challenges her readers to examine 
the narrative arrangement of their own lives and the principles by which
considered action and decision may work toward the thoughtful 
structuring of a life of happiness and contentment. In looking back to 
William James for her modern-era story, Cather conveys her own very 
real understanding that questions about what comprises happiness and 
how to accomplish it are indeed, as Aristotle also claimed, the primary 
questions of a person’s life in any era."

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