Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2008, pp. 71-72.
Steven Trout's engrossing History, Memory, and War, volume 6 of the acclaimed Cather Studies series, is a collection of essays showing how pervasively war appears in Cather's works: the "sheer number of armed conflicts evoked in her fiction is perhaps unprecedented in American literature." Trout's wide-ranging volume shows "the ubiquity of armed conflict . . . as a major theme or as a background feature in Cather's writing" as well as showing that she personally "thought of war on a regular basis."
The collection includes essays by fourteen Cather scholars and moves from the Civil War through World War II in examining Cather's continuing personal absorption with war, including treatments of individual characters and essays on an eclectic array of topics from recreation and art to word choice and sources. The collection could not be better written nor more informative and complete.
Three essays discuss Cather's personal preoccupation with war or her commitments to helping the war effort. Ann Romines focuses on Cather's ambivalence to the Civil War and how Sapphira and the Slave Girl "allowed her to plumb the Terrible as it was grounded in her own family's Virginia history." Janis Stout shows how Cather was "haunted by [the Great War] for years afterward" and had a "sense of gloomy expectation of another war to come." Mary Chinery shows how Cather allowed several novels to be published in cheap Armed Services editions in World War II because of her "deeply felt desire to serve the Allied war effort in the best way she could." Together the essays argue persuasively for the persistence of war as an aspect of Cather's consciousness, from something she needed to work out about her own family history, to a "fixation on the Great War experience," to her generous attempts to lift the spirits of the troops.