Willa Cather

Queering America

Marilee Lindemann

Columbia University Press

Willa Cather

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Pub Date: January 1999

ISBN: 9780231113250

190 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: February 1999

ISBN: 9780231500272

190 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Willa Cather

Queering America

Marilee Lindemann

Columbia University Press

Although it has been proven posthumously by scholars that Willa Cather had lesbian relationships, she did not openly celebrate lesbian desire, and even today is sometimes described as homophobic and misogynistic. What, then, can a reassessment of this contentious first lady of American letters add to an understanding of the gay identities that have emerged in America over the past century? As Marilee Lindemann shows in this study of the novelist's life and work, Cather's sexual coming-of-age occurred at a time when a cultural transition was recasting love between women as sexual deviance rather than romantic friendship. At the same time, the very identity of "America" was characterized by great instability as the United States emerged as a modern industrial nation and imperial power. Indeed, both terms, "queer" and "America," achieved fresh ideological potency at the turn of the century. Willa Cather: Queering America is an enlightening unpacking of Cather's writings, from her controversial love letters of the 1890s--in which "queer" is employed to denote sexual deviance--to her epic novels, short stories, and critical writings. Lindemann points to the "queer" qualities of Cather's fiction--rebellion against traditional fictional form, with sometimes unlikable characters, lack of emphasis on heroic action, and lack of engagement in the drama of heterosexual desire.
...Marilee Lindemann offers the fullest account currently available of gender and sexuality in the work of the early-twentieth-century novelist Willa Cather....Throughout her analyses, Lindemann deftly combines close reading with more theoretical methodologies to offer new light on familiar problems in Cather's three most famous novels. She also suggests the importance of works that are often undervalued or even overlooked. Whether reviewing the much-examined question of Eurocentrism inDeath Comes for the Archbishop or exploring the new topic of anti-bohemianism inO Pioneers!, Lindemann adds significantly to our appreciation of those individual works and, more generally, to our understanding of the ways in which difference can be represented in fiction....Written in lively, engaging prose, this swift-moving account is of course essential reading for Cather scholars. In its attempt to review and rethink the best queer theory of the past decade, it will be illuminating as well for all students of twentieth-century American literature and all theorists interested in questions of minority representation. David Van Leer, University of California - Davis, Journal of American History

About the Author

Marilee Lindemann is assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland. She has edited recent editions of Cather's Alexander's Bridge and O Pioneers! and has written articles in collections including Modern American Women Writers and The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage.