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The Stuff of Our Forebears, The Stuff of Our Forebears, 0817309209, 0-8173-0920-9, 978-0-8173-0920-6, 9780817309206, , , The Stuff of Our Forebears, 0817359583, 0-8173-5958-3, 978-0-8173-5958-4, 9780817359584, , , The Stuff of Our Forebears, 0817392645, 0-8173-9264-5, 978-0-8173-9264-2, 9780817392642,

The Stuff of Our Forebears
Willa Cather's Southern Heritage
Joyce McDonald

Trade Cloth
1998. 160 pp.
978-0-8173-0920-6
Price:  $29.95 s
Quality Paper
2019. 160 pp.
978-0-8173-5958-4
Price:  $24.95 s
E Book
2019. 160 pp.
978-0-8173-9264-2
Price:  $24.95 d

Connecting Cather's work to the southern literary tradition and the South of her youth

A diverse and experimental writer who lived most of her life in New York City, Willa Cather is best known for her depiction of pioneer life on the Nebraska plains. Despite Cather's association with Nebraska, however, the novelist's Virginia childhood and her southern family were deeply influential in shaping her literary imagination.

Joyce McDonald shows evidence, for example, of Cather's southern sensibility in the class consciousness and aesthetic values of her characters and in their sense of place and desire for historical continuity, a sensibility also evident in her narrative technique of weaving stories within stories and in her use of folklore. For McDonald, however, what most links Cather and her work to the South and to the southern literary tradition is her use of pastoral modes.

Beginning with an examination of Cather's Virginia childhood and the southern influences that continued to mold her during the Nebraska years, McDonald traces the effects of those influences in Cather's novels. The patterns that emerge reveal not only Cather's strong ideological connection to the pastoral but also the political position implicit in her choice of that particular mode. Further analysis of Cather's work reveals her preoccupation with hierarchical constructs and with the use and abuse of power and her interest in order, control, and possession. The Willa Cather who emerges from the pages of The Stuff of Our Forebears is not the Cather who claimed to eschew politics but a far more political novelist than has heretofore been perceived.


Joyce McDonald is the author of several books for children and young adults including Swallowing Stones and the Edgar Award–nominated Shades of Simon Gray.



"Joyce McDonald's The Stuff of Our Forebears: Willa Cather's Southern Heritage is another significant addition to Cather studies, the first extended analysis of the impact of Willa Cather's formative years in Virginia and the continuation of the Southern influence on her development after she and her immediate family migrated to Nebraska."
South Atlantic Review

"In associating Cather with the past grandeur and defeat of the South and detecting in her fiction an undertone of historical irony, McDonald successfully places Cather in a larger world than the pioneering American one with which she has been identified."
—John J. Murphy, Brigham Young University

"McDonald succeeds in establishing both the importance and the relevance of those formative years before the Nebraska experience that scholars have so emphasized for several decades. . . . The Stuff of Our Forebears is a readable, insightful addition to Cather scholarship."
—Bruce P. Baker II, University of Nebraska

Also of Interest

Willa Cather and Material Culture
Edited by Janis P. Stout


Cather Among the Moderns
Janis P. Stout


Echoes of Emerson
Diana Hope Polley


Through the Window, Out the Door
Janis P. Stout