Hi, Josh and everyone --

I also used Yours Truly, Willa Cather, and the students found it very interesting, both biographically and because of the privacy issues around the letters. I also find The Road is All very useful; there's an essay in Teaching the Works of Willa Cather called "Everything Was Contested" (by Eleanor Nickel) which discusses the different ways in which different biographers have interpreted Cather's teenage short haircut. This was really useful for getting students to think about how different biographers interpret the same facts very differently. I also talk about tone, choice of music, etc. in The Road is All, which tends to give Cather's story a "sad" feel. How would it be different with different music, or a slightly different emphasis?

With Death Comes for the Archbishop: I haven't taught the book recently, but I think there's an excellent debate about Latour (and Vaillant) as cultural imperialists, and Latour as true cosmopolitan who is changed as much by the New World as much as he changes it, or more so. Nalini Bushan has an excellent and readable article about this  (“Becoming Cosmopolitan: The European Encounter with the New World in Death Comes for the Archbishop.” Willa Cather Newsletter and Review, Vol. 58, No. 2, Winter 2015. 18-22).

Have fun!

On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 4:28 PM, Kelsey Squire <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Hi Josh,


I just finished teaching a Cather course in the fall (upper-division undergrads, but to a mix of English and non-English majors taking the course to fulfill their literature requirement). We discussed a lot of the topics you have listed. Some things we also did:


1. We used the Willa Cather Archive online *a lot.* If you go to Writings > Books, there is a “Scholarship” section for each novel, which links primarily to relevant pieces from Cather Studies. My non-majors in particular found the Cather Studies pieces easier to understand than some of the ones I pulled from the databases.


2. We had discussions on the editorial changes that Cather made to the beginning of My Antonia and the ending of Song of the Lark. I used the Vintage paperbacks in my course, which if I’m remembering right, aren’t based on the first edition of either text. So I showed them the first editions (from the WC Archive online), and we debated how the revisions changed the meaning.


3. If you or anyone else is interested, the first paper assignment that I did asked students to analyze a scene from one of the novels we read, and then, to discuss how three scholarly sources could impact our understanding of the scene. Feel free to use or modify in any way!


4. We also discussed the Selected Letters. We watched NETNebraska’s brief documentary on the letters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEN4bo2gbLk), and I used the Spring 2013 issue of the Newsletter and Review for readings (https://www.willacather.org/system/files/idxdocs/spring_2013_56.2.pdf)


5. We had fun with Robert Slayton’s recent article in the Los Angeles Review of Books, where he argues that My Antonia shouldn’t be considered a classic because it’s not realistic: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/my-antonia-revisited/


Good luck!


Kelsey Squire

Ohio Dominican University

On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 12:59 PM, Joshua Dolezal <[log in to unmask]> wrote:



I’m gearing up for a senior seminar on Cather this spring and am trying to build in some scholarly debates to liven discussion. I have some ideas but thought this group would have others. And maybe the discussion would be useful in classrooms other than mine?


Here are the novels I’ll be teaching and some preliminary thoughts about scholarly debates, some of which are deliberately simplified to clarify contrasting views. Good scholarship avoids simple dichotomies, but sometimes binaries help prompt more nuanced discussion. Look forward to your ideas, too.


O Pioneers!

·         Cather’s views of immigrants: progressive by any standard, forgivably conventional for her time, or inexcusably racist?

·         Possible text: Laegreid, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ignored: Immigrants in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!”

The Song of the Lark

·         Thea in Panther Canyon: feminist awakening or cultural appropriation?

·         Possible text: Cumberland, “A Struggle for Breath”; Moseley, “The Creative Ecology of Walnut Canyon”

My Antonia

·         Jim Burden: naively unreliable or self-aware?

·         Possible texts: Gelfant, “The Forgotten Reaping Hook”; Selzer, “Jim Burden and the Structure of My Antonia”

A Lost Lady

·         Cather as Romantic or Modernist?

·         Possible texts: Rosowski, The Voyage Perilous; Stout, Willa Cather: The Writer and Her World

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Lucy Gayheart






Professor of English

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Julie Olin-Ammentorp
Dept. of English
Le Moyne College
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