Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice

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9780195041323: Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice
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This is the first in-depth biography of Willa Cather in thirty years, and the first ever that fully integrates her life and work. The author of such classics as Death Comes to the Archbishop and O Pioneers! was a complex, passionate and gifted woman trying to forge a new kind of identity for herself as a woman and artist before there were adequate models for this kind of self. "Voice" is the metaphor Cather used to describe her attainment of literary identity and authority, a complex attainment for a woman writer who at first viewed femininity and creativity as incompatible. O'Brien asks two central questions: How did Cather pass through a stage of male identification when she adopted male dress and posed as "William Cather" to become the first woman writer who created the first strong, autonomous and successful women heroes in American literature? How did she move from a literary apprenticeship she later associated with Jamesian imitation and inauthentic speech to a literary maturity in which she took "the road home" to her Nebraska past? The book makes full use of biographical and literary materials that have been slighted in previous biographies: Cather's personal and professional correspondence, family letters and documents, photographs, and the early short stories as well as the major fiction. This is the first biography to deal openly and seriously with her lesbianism, exploring the importance of female friendships in her life and work and assessing the impact Cather's need to conceal her sexual identity had on the creative process. O'Brien draws in particular on new psychoanalytic theories that stress the importance of the mother-daughter bond to the formation of female identity. The book concentrates on Cather's childhood, adolescence, young womanhood and lengthy apprenticehsip, with references to later biographical and literary patterns which are used to illuminate the early years. This is a fascinating portrait of how someone becomes a writer.

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About the Author:

Sharon O'Brien is John Hope Caldwell Professor of American Cultures at Dickinson College and editor of the Library of America edition of the works of Willa Cather.

From Library Journal:

In the first of a two-volume biography that concludes with the 1913 publication of O Pioneers! , O'Brien pursues two aims. One is to show how Cather developed as a personality, establishing a space for herself and creating a distinctive writing voice. The other is to utilize and validate the methodologies of feminist criticism in a redefinition of the American literary canon. But though this richly documented and passionately argued work shows that O'Brien clearly has the ability to accomplish both tasks, she does not succeed entirely in integrating them. Often she uses the novelist as a cardboard exemplum of the plight of feminist creativity in a patriarchal society, sometimes causing her unique personality to dissolve into a vague "sisterhood." Still, there is more material and more illuminating reading here than in any previous Cather biography. Earl Rovit, The City College of New York
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780674953222: Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice

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ISBN 10:  0674953223 ISBN 13:  9780674953222
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 1997
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9780449902837: Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice

Fawcet..., 1987
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