Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Janis Stout's credentials are impeccable: as the author of biographies {of Cather and Katherine Anne Porter} and of critical studies of American women novelists, and as denizen of the West and Southwest, she knows her topic. Starting from what she terms Willa Cather's and Mary Austin's "highly visual prose," Stout builds upon an argument about gender in the West made by Cather scholar Susan Rosowski in her 1999 book, Birthing a Nation. Stout posits that Austin and Cather encountered a West already pictorially determined by the monumental imagery of white, Anglo-Saxon, adventuresome, imperialist, violent, rugged, and most of all masculine conquerors, but that they set out to counter that image with .an alternative vision both feminine and androgynous and thus regendered the West. By the early 1880s, when Cather was growing up in Nebraska, periodicals such as Century magazine, read by Cather's family, contributed to the fossilization of masculine Western imagery; paintings by Frederic Remington and Charlie Russell {whose canvases Stout calls "highly narrative"} did the rest. In the battle between narrative canvases and visual prose, there are clearly different stories to tell.