Date of Award

Summer 1998

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bates, Milton J.

Second Advisor

Machan, Tim

Third Advisor

Hathaway, Heather


In an introduction to the video program Willa Cather's America, Richard Schickel comments: "Willa Cather is the only first-rate American writer whose work examines the growth of America. This is not a hyperbolic statement but an astonishing fact, considering how short a time back even the longest roots in America go." Schickel is right in making this statement. Possibly no other first-rate American writer has presented such a historical overview of America in its origination and growth. Cather's novels cover the time span from the French settlement in Quebec in the seventeenth century, through the annexation of New Mexico into the United States and the abolition of slavery in the middle of the nineteenth century, through the westward movement and the frontier period during the second half of the nineteenth century, through the urbanization, industrialization and mass immigration around the tum of the twentieth century, to the aftermath of World War I. Possibly no first-rate American writer other than Cather has had such a panoramic view of the vast landscape of North America. Her novels cover not only the South, where she was born, but also the Midwest, where she grew up, the Northeast, where she finally settled, and the Southwest and Canadian Quebec, her favorite places to visit. And, possibly no other first-rate American writer has created memorable American characters of so diverse social, ethnic, racial and national backgrounds. In her short stories and novels, Cather creates foreign-born characters including a Swedish farmer, a Bohemian hired girl, a German art patron, a French missionary; Americans of racial minorities, such as a Mexican singer, a Chinese merchant, a black slave girl, a Navajo rancher; native-born old-stock Americans, such as a Midwestern farmer, a Western cowboy, a railroad worker, a Southern lady...



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