Cather Conference (CFP)

The Willa Cather Foundation presents
Willa Cather Spring Conference and Scholarly Symposium
Mapping Literary Landscapes: Environments and Ecosystems
June 5 – 7, 2014 | Red Cloud, Nebraska

Call for Papers and Invitation to Participate

The 59th annual Spring Conference and the one-day scholarly symposium preceding it will focus on the complex impact of the natural environment on Cather and her contemporaries, and on the writers and artists of the generations that have followed. Drawing upon recent scholarly analyses focused on Cather’s “ecological imagination,” this conference seeks to broaden and extend these ideas, both within Cather studies and beyond. From her earliest fiction, Cather was closely attuned to the world around her, and her beautifully limned landscapes are integral to her characters, defining them and their situations. In O Pioneers! and My Ántonia, Cather was the first American novelist to treat the Plains of Nebraska as setting; as such, she taught her readers how to read that landscape, how to integrate with it. Beyond grasslands, Cather mapped many other literary landscapes: the Southwest in three novels, colonial Quebec in Shadows on the Rock, the New York streetscape in “Coming, Aphrodite!” –Throughout, we experience the reverse of what Cather says of Clement Sebastian in Lucy Gayheart: he “had missed the deepest of all companionships, a relation with the earth itself, with a countryside and a people.” Her characters possess–and are possessed by–landscapes, formidable and formative environments, that shape and color Cather’s work. While acknowledging connections to Cather and to her far-seeing art, we encourage analyses drawing from similar concerns and sharing a similar ecological imagination while focusing elsewhere.

The 2014 Spring Conference will provide a lively forum for discussing Cather’s environments and her environmental themes. With the Cather Prairie as perfect backdrop, scholars, artists, and readers will discuss the many literary mappings in her fiction and the informing landscapes of her life. Important to this discussion are those writers, artists, and scholars who continue to interpret the landscapes that Cather loved. The one-day scholarly symposium preceding the conference (Thursday June 5, 2014) will focus on Cather’s various environments, her diverse literary mappings. Having taught readers to understand the Plains, Cather and her influence have persisted as presences. How has that affected today’s ecological thinking? Who might also be seen in similar fashion? How has such ecologically sensitive writing shaped contemporary environmental writing? Which other figures need to be seen as compatible? Possible paper topics include:

Ecocriticism and American Fiction
Cather as literary cartographer: Is the Land Still “The Great Fact”
Reinterpreting the prairie environment
Cather and spiritual geography
Cather and the cosmopolitan landscape
Cather’s influence on contemporary Plains writers
Environmental naturalism in Cather
Sustainable practices in Cather’s fiction
Reading the Plains Today
Plains Landscape and Plains Poetry

Proposals, inquiries, and expressions of interest should be sent by February 15, 2014 to:

Susan N. Maher ( smaher@d.umn.edu)
College of Liberal Arts
1208 Kirby Drive
Duluth, MN 55812-3095

Tracy Tucker ( ttucker@willacather.org)
The Willa Cather Foundation
413 North Webster
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Tracy Tucker, Education Director
The Willa Cather Foundation
413 North Webster Street | Red Cloud, NE 68970
Phone: 402.746.2653 | Toll Free: 866.731.7304
http://www.WillaCather.org | http://www.VirtualCather.org

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