Willa Cather

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the state university; she lived in New York for most of her adult life and writing career.

Early life and education

(See Willa Cather Birthplace) She was born Wilella Siebert Cather in 1873 on her maternal grandmother's farm in the Back Creek valley near Winchester, Virginia. Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak (d. 1931). Within a year they moved to Willow Shade, given to them by her paternal grandparents. The senior Cathers moved on to Nebraska. Mary had six more children after Willa: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie.

The family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska in 1884 to join Charles' parents when Cather was nine years old. Her time in the western state, still on the frontier, was a deeply formative experience for her. She was intensely moved by the dramatic environment and weather, and the various cultures of the American and immigrant families in the area.

While in college at the University of Nebraska, Cather became a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal. She graduated in 1894 with a B.A. in English.

Career

In 1896, Cather moved to Pittsburgh after being hired to write for The Home Monthly. She lived in Pittsburgh until 1906. In Pittsburgh, she taught English first at Central High School for one year and then at Allegheny High School, where she also taught Latin and became the head of the English department. She also worked as a telegraph editor and drama critic for the Pittsburgh Leader and frequently contributed to The Library, another local publication.

She moved to New York City in 1906 upon receiving a job offer on the editorial staff from McClure's Magazine.

Cather and Georgina M. Wells were co-authors of a critical biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. It was serialized in McClure's in 1907-8 and published the next year as a book. Christian Scientists were outraged and tried to buy up every copy. (The work was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993.)

McClure's serialized Cather's first novel, Alexander's Bridge (1912). The work showed her admiration for the style of Henry James. While recognizing her potential, the author Sarah Orne Jewett advised Cather to rely less on James and more on her own experiences in Nebraska.[citation needed] Cather left McClure's in 1912 and began to write full time.

Cather returned to the prairie as a setting for inspiration for most of her novels; she also used experiences from her travels in France. Such deeply felt works became both popular and critical successes. Cather was celebrated by national critics such as H.L. Mencken for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people. When the novelist Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930, he paid homage to Cather by declaring that she should have won the honor.

Later critics tended to favor more experimental authors. During the 1920s, critics treated Cather in a condescending manner. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression and a time of social ferment, critics attacked Cather for her lack of interest in economics and for her conservative politics. Discouraged by the negative criticism of her work, Cather became reclusive, burned letters, and forbade anyone from publishing her letters.

Personal life

As a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, Cather sometimes used the masculine nickname "William" and wore masculine clothing. A photograph in the University of Nebraska archives depicts Cather dressed like a young man and with "her hair shingled, at a time when females wore their hair fashionably long."

Throughout Cather's adult life, her most significant friendships were with women. These included her college friend Louise Pound; the Pittsburgh socialite Isabelle McClung, with whom Cather traveled to Europe; opera singer Olive Fremstad; and most notably, the editor Edith Lewis. Cather's sexual identity remains a point of contention amongst scholars. While many argue for Cather as a lesbian and interpret her work through a lens of "queer theory," a highly vocal contingent of Cather scholars adamantly oppose such considerations.

The scholar Janet Sharistanian has written, "Cather did not label herself a lesbian nor would she wish us to do so, and we do not know whether her relationships with women were sexual. In any case, it is anachronistic to assume that if Cather's historical context had been different, she would have chosen to write overtly about homoerotic love."

Cather's relationship with Edith Lewis began in the early 1900s. The two women lived together in a series of apartments in New York City from 1912 until the writer's death in 1947. From 1913 to 1927, Cather and Lewis lived at No. 5 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. They moved when the apartment was scheduled for demolition during construction of the Seventh Avenue subway line. Cather selected Lewis as the literary trustee for her estate.

Born into a Baptist family, in 1922 Cather joined the Episcopal Church. She had been attending local Episcopal services since her first year in New York in 1906.

In her later life, Cather spent summers on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, Canada. She owned a cottage in Whale Cove, on the Bay of Fundy.

Cather died on April 24, 1947 in New York City of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried in the Old Burying Ground, Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire (not to be confused with Jaffrey, New Hampshire).

A resolutely private person, Cather had destroyed many old drafts, personal papers, and letters. Her will restricted the ability of scholars to quote from those personal papers that remain. Since the 1980s, feminist and other academic writers have explored Cather's sexual orientation and the influence of her female friendships on her work. Most recently, her work has been viewed at the vanguard of "Ecocriticism," a contemporary theoretical approach to the analysis of art that seeks out ecological awareness.

Legacy and honors

    * 1955, The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation (now the Willa Cather Foundation) was founded to support the study of her life and work, and to maintain many sites in her hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska.
    * 1973, the United States Postal Service honored Willa Cather by issuing a stamp with her image. * 1981, the U.S. Mint created the Willa Cather medallion, a half-ounce gold coin.
    * Cather was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
    * 1986, Cather was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
    * The University of Nebraska, named residence halls after both Cather and her friend and scholar Louise Pound. Pound had a lifelong career as professor of English at the university; she was the first woman president of the Modern Language Association.

Bibliography

Nonfiction

    * Willa Cather and Georgine Milmine, The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (1909, reprinted U of Nebraska Press, 1993)
    * Not Under Forty (1936, essays)
    * On Writing (1949, reprint U Nebraska Press, 1988, ISBN 978-0803263321 )

Novels

    * Alexander's Bridge (1912)
    * "The Prairie Trilogy":
          o O Pioneers! (1913)
          o The Song of the Lark (1915)
          o My Ántonia (1918)
    * One of Ours (1922)
    * A Lost Lady (1923)
    * The Professor's House (1925)
    * My Mortal Enemy (1926)
    * Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
    * Shadows on the Rock (1931)
    * Lucy Gayheart (1935)
    * Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940)

Collections

    * April Twilights (1903, poetry)
    * The Troll Garden (1905, short stories)
    * Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920, short stories)
    * Obscure Destinies (1932, three stories)
    * Not Under Forty (1946, essays)
    * The Old Beauty (1948, three stories)
    * Willa Cather: On Writing (1949, essays)

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