On the Boundary between Public and Private: Rethinking Willa Cather’s Letters
The Cather Foundation solicits proposals on topics related to Cather’s letters for a panel at the Society for the Studies of American Women Writers conference in Philadelphia November 4–8, 2015. For many years, biographers and critics who consulted Willa Cather’s letters could refer to their contents only in paraphrase because of restrictions in Cather’s will. Cather’s insistence that her letters not be published or quoted from and stories about the burning of her letters also became a key component of many interpretations of Cather’s life and works. With the lifting of the ban on publication and quotation, the appearance of The Selected Letters of Willa Cather in 2013, a complete digital edition of the letters underway, and the regular discovery of previously-unknown letters, the time is ripe to rethink Cather’s letters and their place in scholarship.
What can Cather’s letters tell us about her works and her life? What can’t they tell us? Now that scholars can quote from her letters, what can we say about Cather’s voice in her letters and her engagement with the letter as genre? Considering the survival of over 3,000 letters in libraries, was Cather as obsessed with privacy as some previously claimed based in part on stories about the destruction of letters? What public function did Cather’s letters have when she wrote them, and what public function to they have now?
Proposals on these and other topics concerning Cather’s letters are solicited. Depending on the number of proposals, more than one panel or a roundtable of shorter presentations may be constructed. Please e-mail a 250-300 word abstract and a 1-page c.v. to Melissa J. Homestead at firstname.lastname@example.org by December 15, 2014.