English, Department of


Date of this Version

January 1996


From Cather Studies, Volume 3, edited by Susan J. Rosowski, © 1996 University of Nebraska Press. A version of this paper is online at http://cather.unl.edu/scholarship/cs/vol3/progressivism.html


Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), Cather’s fiction about the Catholic mission in the Hispanic Southwest, is a historical novel, but one that approaches its subject in an elusive, teasing manner. The text incorporates the new primitivism, carrying with it a tolerant receptivity to Indian culture, racial heterogeneity, and Catholicism--all of which are aspects of American culture that narrow definitions of American progress would have excluded. Nonetheless, Cather cannot finally combine, incorporate, or reconcile her own perspectives on progress, and her open text shades into an evasive text