Considering Willa Cather: Her Life, Her Fiction, and the Importance of Place with Dr. Melissa Pennell
**Please note that this is a vrtual event. Please register in advance to receive the link to join the event on Zoom.**
Many readers associate Willa Cather with Nebraska and its prairies based upon their encounters with some of her best-known works, such as O Pioneers! and My Ántonia. Spending her formative years in this environment allowed Cather a degree of freedom that she might not have enjoyed had her family remained in Virginia, the place of her birth. But Cather was also shaped by her time in and love of other locales, including the American Southwest, New Hampshire, and the islands of Mount Desert and Grand Manan in the Gulf of Maine. Just as place resonated with meaning for Cather, it often affected the sensibilities, outlooks, and expectations of her characters. This presentation, including a series of slides featuring images of Cather and some of the places important to her, will offer an overview of Cather’s life, some key themes in her works, and particularly the role of place in My Ántonia.
This presentation is part of a series that aligns with our classic literature book discussion group that meets on Goodreads. If you are interested in joining that group, they will be selecting titles for the second half of the year beginning tomorrow. This series continues next month, on June 17 at 7PM, when Dr. Keith Mitchell, professor of literature at UMass Lowell, will present a talk about Toni Morrison and the novel Beloved.
About the Speaker:
Melissa McFarland Pennell, Professor Emerita, recently retired from the English department at UMass Lowell. She specializes in 19th and early 20th century American literature and enjoys reading mystery and detective fiction. Her recent publications include an annotated edition, The Historian’s Scarlet Letter: Reading Hawthorne’s Masterpiece as Social and Cultural History, (Prager/ABC-Clio, 2018); a chapter on Hawthorne in Nathaniel Hawthorne in Context (Cambridge UP, 2018), a co-authored discussion on “Teaching Little Women” for a special issue of Women’s Studies (2019), and an essay, “New England Gothic/New England Guilt: Mary Wilkins Freeman and the Salem Witchcraft Episode” in American Women’s Regionalist Fiction: Mapping the Gothic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). Pennell has long admired the work of Willa Cather and included her novels or stories in many course reading lists. She has taken students on field trips to visit Jaffrey, NH, where Cather wrote My Ántonia, and where Cather lies buried in the Old Burial Ground next to her life partner, Edith Lewis
- Wednesday, May 5, 2021
- 7:00pm - 8:00pm
- Online - Zoom #1