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December 2015 Vol. 53 No. 4

University of Nebraska Press

The following review appeared in the December 2015 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Language & Literature - English & American

2015-6580 CIP
Willa Cather and the nineteenth century, ed. by Anne L. Kaufman and Richard H. Millington. Nebraska, 2015. 415p bibl index afp (Cather studies, 10) ISBN 9780803276598 pbk, $40.00.

A companion to Willa Cather and Modern Cultures, ed. by Melissa Homestead and Guy Reynolds (CH, Feb'12, 49-3146)—volume 9 in the "Cather Studies" series—this insightful, well-conceived volume brings together 17 essays, most by senior scholars, examining the literary and cultural contexts of Cather’s work.  The volume is divided into two sections, “Contexts” (treating gender, race, environmentalism, and themes of health and contamination) and "Precursors and Influences."  In the first section, Susan Meyer notes that Edith Wharton and Cather wrote novels in which impure water served as a metaphor for “the threat posed by modernity to art and culture.”  Cather’s important connection to Sarah Orne Jewett is considered in both sections: in the first section, Melissa Homestead contextualizes Cather’s relationship with Edith Lewis and Jewett’s with Annie Fields; in the second, Deborah Carlin offers a close reading of Cather’s changing representations of Jewett as her own career evolved.  Other authors discussed in section 2 include Henry James (particularly his exploration of a character’s consciousness), Howells, Crane, Thackeray, and Housman.  Music scholar David Porter discusses Cather’s deep knowledge of 19th-century composers and her purposeful use of music in her fiction, exemplified in Lucy Gayheart. Matthew Hokom probes Cather’s allusions to classical antiquity in The Lost Lady.  A valuable contribution to Cather studies.

--L. Simon, Skidmore College

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.