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About "Mapping a Writer's World: A Geographic Chronology of Willa Cather's Life"

Introduction

Willa Cather never stopped moving. After her first jarring move from Virginia to Webster County, Nebraska, as a nine-year-old girl, she kept following her career and curiosity around the country and the world. Throughout her adult life she lived in or visited many places: Lincoln, Red Cloud, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, New York, Paris, London, Quebec City, Grand Manan, Jaffrey, Chicago, Long Beach, Avignon, and more. Rarely did a year pass where she did not spend many months riding by rail or boat to favorite spots in New England or new places in the small villages of southern France. As a writer deeply influenced by her surroundings, many of these places appeared in her fiction, and some major works—like Death Comes for the Archbishop and Shadows on the Rock—emerged directly from her powerful response to a place during her travels.

"Mapping a Writer's World: A Geographic Chronology of Willa Cather's Life" is an effort to research, articulate, and visualize this travel to help teachers, readers, and scholars better understand this travel and its effect on Cather's writing.

As we gathered the research about Cather's movements and visits, we soon realized that it would be necessary to establish principles about what would, and would not, be called a visit:

  1. For each recorded visit, we needed to have information about both place and time; these two categories of information are completely intertwined.
  2. At this stage, we have not included information about places that we knew—or assumed—Cather visited if we did not have at least some information that would allow us to provide a date of such a visit.
  3. We did not speculate on the date, but included only information we could support with reliable sources. For example, if we had a pretty good guess about which day Cather might have arrived in a place, but only had solid evidence about the month of the visit, we would include only the month and the year in the database. At the same time, we also included notes that describe, in prose, some of our more specific guesses.

We welcome and invite your ideas about how we might improve the "Geographic Chronology." If you have thoughts to share, feel free to send an email to Andrew Jewell at .

Acknowledgements

The Geographic Chronology was built by a team of people, the core of which is Zach Bajaber, Andrew Jewell, Amanda Kuhnel, and Stacy Rickel.

Zach Bajaber helped envision the data structure; designed the intial interface; and established the technical framework.

Andrew Jewell worked with Zach Bajaber on the data structure; assisted Amanda Kuhnel with research; worked with Stacy Rickel on technical matters; contributed to the interface design; and was generally responsible for project management.

Amanda Kuhnel researched and created the extensive database of all of the times and places of Cather's visits.

Stacy Rickel was chiefly responsible for the technical execution and revision of a design established by Zach Bajaber; making multiple revisions of the database and interface; and generally trouble-shooting technical issues throughout.

Acknowledgement is also due to the Nebraska Humanities Council for providing funds for the project; and Keith Nickum for assisting with technical matters.