Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 3-2018

Document Type



Himes, Emma. " Textual Analysis of Willa Cather’s Letters in R: Twenty Topic Models." Bachelor of Arts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln, Nebraska. 2018.


Copyright Emma Himes 2018


Willa Cather’s letters became public in 2018 allowing for new information to aid in analyzing her works of fiction, but also to help dispel many myths regarding Cather in her personal life. By applying digital humanities computing tools to the letters in the style of topic modeling, it is possible to contribute engaging details to the known chronology of Cather’s life. By utilizing the statistical language R and package mallet, twenty topic models were extracted from Cather’s letters largely organizing her correspondence into four main themes: Career, Family, Entertaining, and Health. These themes in addition to evidence from specific letters work to dispel past understandings of Cather and present her as an ambitious writer and business woman, who maintained strong familial relationships and friendships throughout a stimulating life of scholarship, travel, and fame. This essay explores Willa Cather’s life through digital humanities computing tools.