That she declined to press so fortunate an accident is wholly characteristic.
She refused an invitation to visit her friend at Antibes. Not a mote in the sunbeam which floated through the windows of the long parlor but had danced there in the great days when Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow had routed the incredulity of Thackeray and of Dickens as to the existence of American culture.
Joseph Urgo’s Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration (1995) and my own Willa Cather in Context (1996) uncovered a Cather attuned to a progressive, even liberal agenda: a writer fascinated by otherness and a postmodern sense of mobility.
Marilee Lindemann’s Willa Cather: Queering America widens this progressive school.
Along with Faulkner, Cather has become one of the most contested twentieth-century novelists.
Current debate lies in the intersection of ideology and feminism, with a specific focus on how “progressive” a writer Cather was.
There are slippages of meaning, moments when argumentative logic is lost, elided or blurred.
Lindemann is fond of oppositions wh ere the queer is said to resist or critique the straight; but the rhetorical force of these oppositions sometimes masks a lack of specificity.
The formless prairie, the sandy sluggish streams, the windy landscape, and the wind-blown people formed a background at once too ample and too inchoate for her fancy.
One knows instinctively that she was never happy till she escaped to the land she has made her own, a land of quiet where manners are made by tradition and the spirit never escapes from the mould which defines its excellence.