English, Department of


First Advisor

Melissa J. Homestead

Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Melissa J. Homestead, Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Jeannette E. Schollaert


Willa Cather’s Southwestern novels feature cultured male protagonists as the driving sources of action. The male characters explore the natural world and advance the plot, but Cather positions female figures, particularly spinster figures, on the sidelines of the protagonists’ plots to offer support and connection with the natural world. Using an ethic of care framework and ecofeminist Val Plumwood’s master model, this thesis examines the ways in which Cather marginalizes female figures even as they serve crucial roles in the male protagonists’ development. While the male protagonists link spinster figures and sexualized feminine bodies with the natural world, they imbue the natural world with feminized characteristics. In this way, Cather’s male protagonists reify the connection between women and nature that is used to dismiss and denigrate the autonomy of the natural world and women.

Adviser: Melissa J. Homestead