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Resounding voices: Willa Cather's literary braiding of Robert Louis Stevenson, James M. Barrie, and Edgar Allan Poe

Debra J Seivert, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Willa Cather, at a young age, began to define and illustrate the characteristics of a true artist. Utilizing methodologies from cultural studies and theories of narrative, this dissertation examines Willa Cather's definition of the Kingdom of Art and her own journey to and through that kingdom. A review of Cather's early essays and critical statements on authors, books, and theater reveals Cather's beliefs and expectations of essential qualities necessary in the creation of superior art. Her critical statements become a literary treasure map, marking reference points for an artist's journey-quest to the Kingdom of Art. Her short stones and fiction exemplify her critical statements and illustrate her own journey. ^ Expanding and adapting literary themes and techniques Cather gathered from her voracious reading, she appropriately selected and crafted those techniques in her fiction, creating a literary braid. Plaiting in the treasure-seeking quest she found in the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson, Cather illustrated fictional artists on their journeys to the Kingdom of Art. She not only provided examples of successful quests, but she also illustrated the dark examples of failed quests—of those who do not follow the map to the kingdom but get led astray. In doing so, Cather demonstrated the premises she plotted in her early critical statements. ^ Employing the motif of eternal youth Cather found in the writing of James Matthew Barrie, Cather emphasized the need for artists to retain the enthusiasm and vigor of youth concurrently with the excitement of novel experiences. Expanding the techniques she found in Edgar Allan Poe, Cather created a gothic realism and heightened its effect by blending gothic elements with real-world experiences. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Seivert, Debra J, "Resounding voices: Willa Cather's literary braiding of Robert Louis Stevenson, James M. Barrie, and Edgar Allan Poe" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9967406.