Upon looking at the schedule for the Scholars' Summit on the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition, an event that brought together a wide range of the Edition's editors and publishers this past summer, one of the things a careful observer notices is the use of words like "researching," "discovering," "revelations," and "origins" in the paper topics. Ordinary readers take a story and see a character, a plot line, an exciting ending; literary scholars see the author—his/her history, his/her personality, his/her method—in that character, that plot, that ending. Like archaeologists at a remote desert dig, those who study literature are constantly searching for what lies beneath the surface of a piece. Those who both attended and presented at the academic event held June 23-25 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln witnessed an in-depth uncovering of author Willa Cather and her work.
On Wednesday, June 23, 2004 the Summit began at Love Library with a welcome, followed by a tour and discussion by Katherine L. Walter, Professor and Chair of Digital Initiatives and Special Collections Department, entitled "The Scholarly Edition as a Magnet—the Archives/Special Collections Scholarly Editing's Digital Component: the E-Text Center, UNL." As Guy Reynolds, UNL Department of English, noted, aspects of the Summit such as this "looked forward to how Cather scholarship might change in the digital age."
Each working session by the Cather Edition Editors and Fellows involved an informal discussion of one or more papers. Thursday morning began with Susan Rosowski and Charles Mignon's presentations of "Two Decades of Editing a Scholarly Edition" and "'Hoeing to the end of the row': the results (and vicissitudes) of textual editing in the Cather Scholarly Edition." In the early afternoon session John Murphy discuss "Researching the 'Catholic Novels': Revelations of Cather's Greatness." These were examples of sessions that, as Reynolds stated, "dealt with specific texts and the editorial or scholarly issues they raised—for instance, questions about how Cather revised her materials, and how we should establish a 'final' scholarly text." The day concluded with "The Press and the Edition," a panel discussion comprised of Paul Royster (Director, University of Nebraska Press), Debra Turner (Production Manager), and Sandra Johnson (Marketing Manager).
Ann Moseley and Kari Ronning kicked off the Friday morning festivities with "The Legacy of Cather's Journalism in the Social and Literary History of The Song of the Lark" and "Personal and Professional: Tracing the Origins of Obscure Destinies." In one of the sessions that, as Reynolds summarized, "moved outwards into free-ranging exchanges about how Cather scholarship has changed over the past decades," Tom Quirk and Ann Romines presented "Seeing Alexander's Bridge Afresh" and "Editing Sapphira: A Virginia Excursion." The Summit concluded with a final discussion of the ideas set forth throughout the three-days of conversation and debate.
"This was an occasion for scholars, graduate students, librarians and publishers to get together to exchange ideas about the progress of one of the nation's most important textual projects," Reynolds said. "More focused than a conventional academic conference, but informal nonetheless, the Summit was an important additional activity for the Cather Project."