Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 252-253
In 2005 Drew University's Library opened its newly developed Willa Cather Collection to a national Colloquium of Cather scholars. At the request of the Colloquium's organizer, the late Merrill Maguire Skaggs, each selected some interesting object-a manuscript fragment, an exchange of letters, an illustrationas the point of departure for further research, analysis, or speculation. Willa Cather: New Facts, New Glimpses, Revisions, a set of twenty brief essays and a meticulously annotated "Willa Cather Collection Finding Aid," is the project's result.
Unsurprisingly, the essays present a broad, disorderly range of approach and subject matter. They include few very startling discoveries: the "new facts" are mainly modest (and probably for many readers esoteric) contributions to Cather's already well-detailed biography. Mark Madigan confirms and explains the tension between Cather's partner Edith Lewis and literary friend Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Suzi Shulz and John Yost identify "Trix" Florance, Cather's Red Cloud neighbor, schoolmate, and correspondent, as a possible model for her fictional heroine Lucy Gayheart. In separate essays, Steven Shively, Richard Harris, and Ashley Carter explore Cather's late-life friendship with Yehudi Menuhin and his family. Other "glimpses" consider Willa Cather as a youthful literary illustrator; as an observer of the energized, urbane New York ballet scene of the early 191Os; as the rigorous editor-in-chief of her own work and her public persona; as a gleeful baiter of literary scholars themselves.