Spring 2001

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2000 International Cather Seminar

by Margie Rine
Image of Joseph Meeker, seminar keynoter(left) visits with UNL professor of art Keith Jacobshagen.Joseph Meeker, seminar keynoter(left) visits with UNL professor of art Keith Jacobshagen.

Scholars, teachers, and Cather admirers from Great Britain, Japan, Canada, Spain, Portugal, and across the United States assembled last June 17-24, 2000, for the 8th International Cather Seminar entitled "Willa Cather's Environmental Imagination."

The Lied Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska proved to be an ideal setting for a week that focused on the newly emerging field of environmental literature.

Seminarians were treated to sessions by pioneers in the field of environmental literature including: Joseph Meeker; author of Spheres of Life, The Comedy of Survival, and Minding the Earth; Thomas Lyon, former editor of Western American Literature; and Glen Love, past president of the Western Literature Association and the author of New Americans: The Westerner and the Modern Experience in the American Novel and Babbitt: An American Life and coeditor of Ecological Crisis: Readings for Survival. Cheryll Glotfelty, professor of literature and the environment at the University of Nevada-Reno, provided an overview of ecocriticism with her presentation entitled, "A Guided Tour of Ecocriticism, with Excursions to Catherland."

Image of Seminar director, Susan J. Rosowski visits with Tom Lyon, seminar leynoter, and Janis Lyon.Seminar director, Susan J. Rosowski visits with Tom Lyon, seminar leynoter, and Janis Lyon.

Other sessions included those by top Cather scholars from around the world and panels on the Cather Scholarly Edition, Cather in the classroom, and Nebraska grasslands. Other highlights of the seminar were the musical performances of Ariel Bybee and UNL opera students entitled "'I Must Have Music': Songs and Arias from Willa Cather's Fiction"; excerpts from Tyler White's opera, O Pioneers!; and a recital, "Willa Cather-Her World of Music" by Jane Dressler, soprano and a professor at Kent State University, featuring the world premiere of the song-cycle "Ántonia: Writing on the Sun," by Minneapolis composer Libby Larsen.

Image of Linda Jones, pianist (left), and Jane Dressler, soprano and a professor at Kent State University, premiered a new song-cycle composed by Libby Larsen.Linda Jones, pianist (left), and Jane Dressler, soprano and a professor at Kent State University, premiered a new song-cycle composed by Libby Larsen.

During the weeklong seminar, participants went on a day trip to Red Cloud, where the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial staff provided them with a tour of the WCPM and other Cather-related sites in Red Cloud and Webster County. Highlights of the trip included a performance at the Bladen Opera House, a tour of the Cather Prairie, and visits to the Cather second home and the Red Cloud Opera House.

One of the seminar's paper presenters, Philip Kennicott, chief classical music critic for The Washington Post in his June 23 column wrote, " . . . The conference is remarkably heterogeneous. Among the scholars and teachers looking for new insights into Nebraska's favorite writer, there are people who travel here simply because they love Cather. . . . The most refreshing thing is the absolute lack of insularity; this little niche of the academy is still interested in communicating with each other and with the outside world."

Seminar director, Susan Rosowski, described the week as a unique opportunity for fostering interdisciplinary research and teaching, and for modeling a community of diversity. "It also demonstrates the potential of Cather's writing to provide a forum for addressing issues of our time," she said.

Willa Cather's Environmental Imagination" was sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation. Additional financial support was provided by the Cooper Foundation, Nebraska Humanities Council, Steinhardt Foundation, and the Kimmel Foundation.