English, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2007


Published in THE JOURNAL OF THE MIDWEST MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION, Volume 40, Number 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 148-151. Copyright 2007 Melissa Homestead.


In her essay "The Novel Démeublé," American novelist Willa Cather famously protested against the "over-furnished" modern novel, in which "material objects and their vivid presentation" have overtaken artistic vision and skill. In response, she advocates "throw[ing] all of the furniture out of the [novel's] window," leaving behind "the room bare as the stage of a Greek theatre.". In the introduction to this collection of essays and in many of the essays themselves, editor Janis Stout and the essays' authors refer to and rebut Cather's famous artistic manifesto through analyses of material objects in her fiction. Stout's introduction frames the collection as a whole as part of an ongoing reclamation of Cather's modernism and as "consider[ing] her less in exceptionalist terms and more in terms of her involvement in, or even investment in, her culture.” ... As is often the case with such collections, however, the essays are of uneven quality and thematic as well as methodological coherence is weak.