Carnival in the Novels of Willa Cather: When the World Becomes Grotesque

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Nominated for the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association 2012 Emily Toth Award.
This work analyzes Willa Cather’s fiction using images of laughter, feasting and dancing. The study employs Bakhtin’s theory of the carnival and demonstrates that for Cather, festivals are transformative events.


“This study foregrounds material usually so back grounded that its significance has not been noticed. Her writing is so intelligent, her thoughts so clear that it is difficult to imagine how this element of Cather’s craft has hitherto gone unstudied.”-Prof. Margaret Doane, California State University

"This work is a significant addition to Cather studies in its exploration of what Cather knew and understood about the carnival tradition in European classical literature and in the experiences of celebration in her own life.”-Prof. Dr. Laura Winters, College of Saint Elizabeth

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Foreword by Margaret Doane, Ph.D.



Chapter One
Dancing in Willa Cather’s Early Short Fiction

Chapter Two
Festivity and Midsummer Traditions in O Pioneers!

Chapter Three
The Hired Girls and the Dancing Pavilions in My Ántonia

Chapter Four
Failed Festivities: Parties in Modern Life

Chapter Five
Cather’s American Revision of Maid Marian in A Lost Lady

Chapter Six
Turning Worlds and the Laughter of December in My Mortal Enemy

Chapter Seven
Upsetting the Carnival in Death Comes for the Archbishop

Chapter Eight
Sacred Time and Festive Tradition in Shadows on the Rock

Chapter Nine
The End of the Festival in Sapphira and the Slave Girl





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