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


Since its founding in 1990, Cather Studies has offered seven occasions for the publication of a volume devoted to Willa Cather scholarship. Of late, the series's editors have focused on a theme; in volume 7, editor Guy Reynolds, director of the Cather Project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, offers an introduction and twenty essays by both established Cather scholars and relative newcomers relating directly or indirectly to the matter of Willa Cather as cultural icon. Several essayists provide

Several essayists provide provocative definitions of what it means to have reached the status of icon. For Elsa Nettels, "Writers become icons when they come to embody or are recognized as literary creators of an era, a region, a city, a culture, or a way of life that we recognize as an essential part of a nation's history and character." For Joq.n Millington and Joseph Urgo, iconic status has more to do with the nature and quality of the reader's engagement with the writer's works: "the writer whom we acknowledge as iconic," Urgo claims, "we also acknowledge as having, to an extent we seek to realize, produced the way we think." Other contributors (Jonathon Gross and Richard Harris) focus on iconic writers who may have influenced Cather, on iconic texts that may have inspired her work (Jessica Rabin and Timothy Blackburn), or on iconic characters Cather herself created (Joshua Dolezal). In a brief opening essay, Robert Pinsky reveals that he drew upon Walt Whitman and Cather in writing his own celebrated book-length poem, Explanation of America.