Willa Cather The emerging voice

Sharon O'Brien

Book - 1987

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2nd Floor BIOGRAPHY/Cather Checked In
New York : Oxford University Press 1987.
Main Author
Sharon O'Brien (-)
Physical Description
xvi, 464 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographies and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

O'Brien's study is a major contribution to Cather scholarship and will become part of the critical canon for all serious students of Cather's fiction. O'Brien's achievement lies not so much in new material that she uncovers as it does in her fresh approach to Cather's early years of trial and experimentation, years of literary and personal apprenticeship, which previous biographers have not treated in any great detail. O'Brien focuses on Cather's attempt to resolve the culturally created contradiction between femininity and creativity. She charts the young Cather's struggle to find her identity in a late-Victorian culture that provided few appealing role models. She traces Cather's shift from male to female identification (dealing frankly with Cather's lesbianism) and examines the gradual reconciliation in Cather's life and art of the initially opposed identities of woman and artist. O'Brien's approach to her material reveals the influence of recent developments in feminist criticism, particularly Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic (CH, Jan '80) and Nancy Chodorow's model of female development in The Reproduction of Mothering (CH, Nov '78). Some readers may feel that O'Brien rides her thesis a bit too hard, but this is hairsplitting. Her Willa Cather joins a growing body of excellent literary criticism that adds to our understanding of the relationship between gender and creativity. Recommended to all academic libraries.-E.L. GNewhall, Occidental College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In the first volume of a projected two-volume biography, O'Brien provides a highly intelligent and original assessment of the literary apprenticeship of this great Nebraska fiction writer. (D 1 86)

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

In the first of a two-volume biography that concludes with the 1913 publication of O Pioneers! , O'Brien pursues two aims. One is to show how Cather developed as a personality, establishing a space for herself and creating a distinctive writing voice. The other is to utilize and validate the methodologies of feminist criticism in a redefinition of the American literary canon. But though this richly documented and passionately argued work shows that O'Brien clearly has the ability to accomplish both tasks, she does not succeed entirely in integrating them. Often she uses the novelist as a cardboard exemplum of the plight of feminist creativity in a patriarchal society, sometimes causing her unique personality to dissolve into a vague ``sisterhood.'' Still, there is more material and more illuminating reading here than in any previous Cather biography. Earl Rovit, The City College of New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.