Willa Cather and Others

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 14 illustrations Published: February 2001

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Queer Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

After many years as one of the premier scholars of English Renaissance literature, Jonathan Goldberg turns his attention to the work of American novelist Willa Cather. With a focus on Cather’s artistic principle of “the thing not named,” Willa Cather and Others illuminates the contradictions and complexities inherent in notions of identity and shows how her fiction transforms the very categories—regarding gender, sexuality, race, and class—around which most recent Cather scholarship has focused.
The “others” referred to in the title are women, for the most part Cather’s contemporaries, whose artistic projects allow for points of comparison with Cather. They include the Wagnerian diva Olive Fremstad, renowned for her category-defying voice; Blair Niles, an ethnographer and novelist of jazz-age Harlem and the prisons of New Guinea; Laura Gilpin, photographer of the American Southwest; and Pat Barker, whose Regeneration trilogy places World War I writers—and questions of sexuality and gender—at its center. In the process of studying these women and their work, Goldberg forms innovative new insights into a wide range of Cather’s celebrated works, from O Pioneers! and My Ántonia to her later books The Song of the Lark, One of Ours, The Professor’s House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Sapphira and the Slave Girl.
By applying his unique talent to the study of Cather’s literary genius, Jonathan Goldberg makes a significant and new contribution to the study of American literature and queer studies.


“[An] imaginative, scholarly work . . . Goldberg’s extensive notes and bibliography testify to the breadth of his interdisciplinary approach, just as his text testifies to its depth. His imaginative use of fiction, criticism, nonfiction, and even photographs not only enriches his consideration of a ‘literary’ controversy but also shows how a scholar can draw upon a variety of sources without reducing any of them to mere background.” — Priscilla Leder , Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas

"[U]seful and enlightening. . . . Goldberg's project is an important contribution to the field of queer literary studies, to the body of Cather criticism, and to theories of narrative, gender, and sexuality." — Jennifer Worley , Journal of the History of Sexuality

"The paths Goldberg has followed to sketch out this web of connections lead to fresh and illuminating readings in this well-researched and highly engaging book."

— Heather K. Love , Great Plains Quarterly

Willa Cather and Others is an elegant book, the most sophisticated treatment yet of gender and sexuality in Cather’s work. In writing about the elusive beauty of Cather’s work, Goldberg manages to capture its beauty without losing the sense of elusiveness it creates.” — Michael Warner, author of The Trouble With Normal

Willa Cather and Others models queer criticism as a practice of patient intelligence and acuity. It elaborates beautifully ideas about the relation of the explicit to the inexplicit, of heterosexuality to the spaces, songs, glances, and objects of sexualities that go unnamed while resonating everywhere in Cather’s work.” — Lauren Berlant, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City

“In this elegantly written and passionate book, Jonathan Goldberg displays extraordinary attentiveness to the suggestive silences that open out beyond the surface of Cather's deceptively translucent prose. Refusing to use those silences to name too simply the very thing Cather herself insisted could not be named, Goldberg tracks the intricacies, twists, and crossings in the fabric of her writing to show how gender and sexuality almost always intersect in unpredictable and surprising ways. This is a moving, intelligent book.” — Jan Radway, author of A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle Class Desire


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Jonathan Goldberg is Sir William Osler Professor of English at The Johns Hopkins University. He is the editor of Queering the Renaissance, also published by Duke University Press, and is the author of numerous other books, including Sodometries and Desiring Women Writing: English Renaissance Examples.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2672-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2677-9
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