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Willa Cather's new regionalism: Place and marketplace

Yeaji Shin, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation discusses Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! , The Song of the Lark, and Death Comes for the Archbishop as regionalist texts in that they examine their characters in terms of place and use place itself as a significant force in the book. None of these, however, fits the form of regionalism as defined by Sarah Orne Jewett, and neither does it fit with the New Regionalist emphasis on representing the unrepresented, the “Other” of the earlier regionalists. Instead, in each of these books, Cather’s regionalism is formed by the dialogue between metropolis and hinterland, between a capital and a colony. Place, therefore, exists most strikingly in its connections to other places. Obviously, the smaller, less powerful, and less economically robust region is inextricably bound to the larger, more powerful, and richer region by which it is subsumed. ^ As this dissertation demonstrates, and Cather’s regionalist characters perceive spaces and places in terms of their connections to other spaces, each character also grows in her or his interactions between temporality and place. This theme conveys Cather’s alignment with the colonialist and capitalist desire for the ever-expanding growth of territory and markets. Despite Cather’s contempt for many forces in American society, she does favor a kind of expansionism that is not foreign in spirit from that of Frederick Jackson Turner and even Kit Carson, an improbable hero in Death Comes for the Archbishop, while her respect for the marketplace, not in its vulgar commercialism but as a means for what she sees as a natural aristocracy to flourish, is apparent in all three books. ^ Finally, this study concludes that Cather’s regionalism is complex and effectively global. For Cather, as for her Red Cloud neighbors, whose life was determined by the town’s status on the railroad between Kansas City and Denver, place and marketplace cannot exist separately from each other, and the West cannot exist without having been both economically and aesthetically colonized. Cather’s New Regionalism occupies a space of its own that can tell us a great deal about our own twenty-first century globalism. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Shin, Yeaji, "Willa Cather's new regionalism: Place and marketplace" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3450348.