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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Mary R. Ryder


The approach to my thesis shall be in accord with the tenets of Cather biographer E. K. Brown, who detailed Cather's life only as it illuminated her art. I share the view of both Brown and Cather, who believed in the artist's right to a private life. Hermione Lee is correct in asserting that "When you set out to write about her, you feel she would not have liked what you are doing, and would not have liked you either" (3). My aim is to unearth new roots in Cather scholarship, rather than merely to cover up old roots with the dirt of long-held views and common knowledge. My thesis will show how Cather created a functional art form that serves the same end as many Native American narratives, namely to recover (or rediscover) the spirit of the past and the creative energy of the artist. I shall show how the Native American perspective found in Cather's early fiction can be attributed to Cather's reading of books by Romantic historians such as Francis Parkman and William Prescott; to her reading of local Webster County and Red Cloud, Nebraska, newspapers covering Native American life on the plains; and to her early reading of books from her personal library, such as Taylor's Between the Gates (1878)--book number 4 eleven in her private library, and Winchell's Sketches of Creation (1870)--book number forty-two. Yet, Cather's later fiction, after 1912 (and of a less-romantic nature), demonstrates that her travels in the southwestern United States brought her in touch, perhaps for the first time in her life, with the reality of the creative spirit of the American Indian and the traditional values found in works of many contemporary Native American storytellers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947 -- Criticism and interpretation
Indians in literature
Indians of North America -- Influence




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