Like me, you may have first discovered Willa Cather through My Antonia. Perhaps, you learned to love her style and prose, the dark irony and the sense of place. She captured a story that was both difficult to stomach and even harder to put down. It delves into aspects that are so true-to-life for us in modern society, with hunger, suicide and deprivation paired with the (perhaps more basic) longings to return to a past that’s long gone, a sense of place that we can never recover.

My Antonia may have sparked our love for Willa Cather, but it only serves to entice us into the true depths of her works. We get a few glimpses of why she is so important — particularly today…

  • Great Writer: Willa Cather is now recognized as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
  • Regional: She captures a sense of place, as she immerses us in the Nebraska landscape. It’s why she is seen as a master in regional literature.
  • Woman Writer: Willa Cather made a living as a journalist long before she turned to fiction. Notably, she worked for McClure’s Magazine, in New York — it was her second job out of college.
  • Award-Winning: She was a Pulitzer-Prize winning author for One of Ours, her novel about war. (My Ántonia was nominated but did not receive the prize.)
  • Body of Work: Willa Cather has made her place on the literary stage, with a body of works that includes novels, poetry, and short fiction.

Her presence as a notable author on the stage of American literature is impressive and unforgettable. And, the controversy abounds far beyond the pages of her books into her life.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am just finishing her book death comes to the Archbishop. I have only read one other of her books, “My Antonia”, and I cannot help but make some comparisons. While her description of landscapes is present in both works I can’t help but think of My Antonia as more personal and evocative of her youthful connection to Nebraska and the Plains. Her affection for Antonia is wonderfully built up and matured from a childhood full of an innocent carefree spirit reflective of the wide open Plains, to an empathy for the trials and sufferings which only ripened the spirited energy of the wondrous Antonia. “Death comes for the Archbishop”, while it does not come across to me as deeply personal to the writer, nevertheless captures elements of the culture and climate of New Mexico and the challenges this world presents for a highly civilized European Churchman, whose job it is to bring a structured christianity both to indigenous peoples and spanish mexicans. Much of the clergy he encounters must themselves be reined in for their wayward corruptions. Yet the bishop shows himself as a man of gentle character who yet recognizes the good that his forebears do despite their waywardness. Very large questions regarding how to best to present the Christian message to people who will stubbornly resist being changed but who in their simplicity have great respect for the priests who suffer greatly away from the predictable cultured French world of their upbringing present themselves. Cather beautifully depicts the tension within the bishop between the love and comfort he finds in his european customs and forms, and the supernatural mandate he embraces with his whole being to establish a diocese in the expansive wild desolate lands making up the vast territory he is responsible for

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