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Shadows on the Rock
|Shadows on the Rock - Cather's French Stronghold and Goal of Fantastic Dreams, by John J. Murphy, Brigham Young University, Emeritus|
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Cather's "French stronghold" and "goal of . . . fantastic dreams"
John J. Murphy, Brigham Young University, Emeritus
Shadows on the Rock not only celebrates the French colonial experience in North America as an alternative to the revolutionary severance from Europe that defines much of U.S. history, but represents a kind of deliverance for Willa Cather during a time of personal difficulties and disappointment with America's failure to realize what she felt a worthy national culture should be. The reception to this novel in 1931 was mixed; there was significant disappointment that in Shadows as in Death Comes for the Archbishop (its immediate predecessor) Cather had abandoned her earlier mythologies of Anglo-American pioneering in the Midwest for Catholic themes and French missionaries. The Scribner's reviewer classified both books as "deliberately outside the typical American manner."
In her 1923 essay "Nebraska: The End of the First Cycle," Cather laments the "Americanization" that has "done away with" much of European culture and stamped out the use of other languages though English-only programs (237). Then she castigates her alma mater, the University of Nebraska, for becoming "a gigantic trade school. The men who control it s destiny . . . wish their sons and daughters to study machines, mercantile processes, ‘the principles of business'; everything that has to do with the game of getting on in the world and nothing else" (238). In The Professor's House, two years later, the State University where her protagonist teaches is being "farm[ed] . . . out to athletics, and to the agricultural and commercial schools favoured and fostered by the State Legislature" (58).
The year The Professor's House was published (1925), Cather discovered in Santa Fe a biography of Bishop Machebeuf of Denver by Father William Howlett and got the particulars she needed to begin Death Comes for the Archbishop, her attempt to depict, "The story of the Catholic Church in [the Southwest,] . . . the most interesting of all its stories" (On Writing 5), and in such a way as to measure "all human experiences . . . against one supreme spiritual experience" (9). When Willa Cather first saw Quebec City, in June 1928, she was prepared to respond to it creatively. Here, in one of North America's most spectacular settings, which historian Francis Parkman romanticizes as a "mighty promontory rugged and bare, [that] thrust its scarped front into the surging current," Cather found a sanctuary of significant historical and cultural implications. "Here," continues Parkman, "[d]evout Catholics, kindling with redoubled zeal, would fain requite the Church for her losses in the Old World by winning to her fold the infidels of the New" (1:154-55).
Cather's companion Edith Lewis describes Cather's excited reaction to the Quebec scene: "From the first moment that she looked down . . . on the pointed roofs and Norman outlines of the town . . . , [she] was . . . overwhelmed . . . by the sense of its extraordinary French character, isolated and kept intact through hundreds of years, as if by a miracle, on this great un-French continent" (153-54). Cather's epiphany as she looked out over Quebec coalesced three aspects of her life: her fond memories of France were complemented by childhood memories of Virginia and Nebraska, and both were transfigured, I believe, by the "supreme spiritual experience" of writing the Archbishop. The faith community in which Cather had taken refuge she now relocated to the rock of Quebec. As Lewis puts it, "a reluctance to leave that world of Catholic feeling and tradition in which she had lived so happy so long . . . led [Cather] to embark on [her Quebec] novel" (155).
The opening pages of Shadows establish Quebec as a sanctuary of order surrounded by the chaos of nature, "the dead, sealed world of . . . interlocking trees" (11). Against this chaos, secular and sacred order cooperate for human survival. Madame Auclair instructs Cécile in the rituals of cuisine and cleaning, and when Cécile suffers domestic disorder compromised by nature's crudities on the Isle of Orleans, housekeeping becomes sacred to her, and she identifies with the nuns who came to Quebec to establish the sacred order there. That order is "of the mind," Cather explains. The nuns had about them an arranged universe "created by God for a great purpose"; "at Quebec just as at home," they "played their accustomed part in it. . . . [T]he Sister's prayers could do much,--no one might say how much" (115). Cather's construction of seventeenth-century Quebec clearly represents an alternative to the New England Puritan "city upon a hill" envisioned by John Winthrop (111), which lurk s in the background as a challenge to Quebec throughout the novel. In her letter on Shadows to reviewer Wilbur Cross, Cather chose words like "stronghold," "endurance," and "sacred fire" (On Writing 15-16) to express the meaning Quebec had for her, and she drew on biblical imagery to fashion the city as a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy and French culture.
Yet the Quebec of Shadows is an illusion as well, the product of "a game of make-believe," as Cather described all the arts (On Writing 125). Cather's Quebec is like "one of those artificial mountains . . . made in the churches [in France] to present the scene of the Nativity" (9). The city gleams "above the river like an altar with many candles, or like a holy city in an old legend, shriven, sinless, washed in gold" (195). Yes, indeed, but in an earlier draft, Quebec is "a toy village in an old legend" (Autograph). Either metaphor suggests precariousness in the modern world. "[T]he drama of a people who are in their "collective imagination" "constantly under siege, constantly threatened with extinction" as Philip Marchand recently nuanced it (69), would have appealed to Cather in the late Twenties. Like T.S. Eliot in the first part of Ash Wednesday, Cather felt compelled during a time of loss "to construct something / Upon which to rejoice" (lines 24-25), to escape, if you will, what becomes unpleasant in one's life. As Cather wrote in 1936, "What has art ever been but escape?" (On Writing 18).
Cather's view of Quebec on that June morning became for her a pons seclorum, a bridge of ages, like that experienced by Henry Adams at the door of the abbey church on Mont-Saint-Michel, another rock-based outpost of faith, where Adams could view five centuries of architecture, a marriage of "the earliest Norman and the latest French" (15). The rock and its architecture enabled Cather to bridge cherished cultures and memories: the pioneering world of her prairie fiction, the maritime world of Grand Manon (where she and Lewis built a cottage), Mesa Verde's pre-historic cliff-dwellings in The Professor's House, Acoma pueblo in the Archbishop, and finally medieval Avignon, wher e she would set her final work. In spite of her interest in the Middle Ages, Cather, like Adams, was modern and very American in her extensive travels and eclectic use of history. Raymond Carney's account of Adams's bridge-building is applicable to Cather:
If the church door is a . . . bridge over which we may travel back and forth across ages and . . . belief, it is Adams' playfully daring imaginative bridge- building that makes is one . . . . To be able . . . to move freely and audaciously back and forth in space and time, is to be a supreme imaginative bridge-builder and someone undaunted by the absence of actual worldly bridges and connections. (xi)
For Adams, the archangel atop the transept tower stands for the militant twelfth-century state-no matter that this tower was under construction in 1895 or that the statue of Saint Michael dates from 1879. No matter either that in Cather's novel the fortress altar in Notre-Dame-des-Victoires admired by Cécile and Jacques in 1697 was built in 1878. Adams claims that the meaning "the mass of encrusted architecture" at Mont Saint-Michel had in the twelfth century is lost to his contemporaries in the twentieth (7), just as Cather claims that the "sacred fire" surviving on this rock is difficult for an American "to catch . . .-it's so unlike us" (On Writing 16-17). The key to creative meaning, adds Adams, is to "grow prematurely young" like "old people, who alone, as a class, have the time to be young" (7-8). Revealingly, the perspective from which Shadows is told is largely one of childhood and old age.
However, unlike Mon t-Saint-Michel, Quebec is not a survivor of the Middle Ages. From its founding in 1608 until the mid-twentieth century, it served as a fortress of the Counter-Reformation, offering more anxious protection than Adams's less defined and more reposeful medieval refuge. The world Cather constructed out of the matter of Quebec was defensive and in part reflected her own insecurity. Both she and Adams felt the need to communicate what Carney refers to as "nostalgia for an era before the modernist insight" and, at the same time, "joy" in the "potential liberation of a new situation" (xvi), in which one finds the freedom to, as Eliot has it, "construct something upon which to rejoice."
Two related developments of the Counter Reformation have significant bearing on the contents of both Shadows and Death Comes for the Archbishop. Jesuit historian Robert Bireley attributes these developments to "an intensified commitment of . . . members of religious . . . congregations . . . to new types of pastoral activity," and to "the creation of styles and forms of religious life that facilitated . . . a new synthesis of the contemplative and the active life in the world" (25). Such was the contribution of the Spiritual Exercises devised by Ignatius Loyola, whose small band of Jesuits became a religious order in 1540. Ignatius linked the medieval practice of mediation on Christ's suffering and death (what Bishop Latour practices in the first chapter of Cather's Archbishop) to the individual Christian's responsibility within salvation history, viewing religious life relative to the task of advancing God's kingdom. France became a particularly fruitful field for religious vocations, which explains Cather's interest in the lives of its priests and nuns. The Jesuits, Lazarists, Sulpicians, and the Brothers of Christian Schools originated in France, responding to the Council of Trent's call for teachers on all levels, from seminary theology to catechism instruction. Some religious communities devoted themselves to primary schools; o thers staffed hospitals or worked among the poor. But the heroes of the church were in the foreign missions. The image of the dying Francis Xavier yearningly looking toward China from the island of Sancian in 1552 became iconic.
Of particular importance as background for Cather's novel is what Bireley refers to as the "feminization" of religious life in seventeenth-century France (37), when women religious outnumbered their male counterparts. The mystical contemplative life popularized by Teresa of Avila had great appeal, and within forty years of the opening in 1601 of the first Paris convent of her reformed Carmelites, fifty-five carmels had been established across the country. The Ursulines were the most numerous and influential of the new women's congregations devoted to active service. Originating in Italy, they were introduced in France through Avignon in 1598 and allowed to give priority to teaching.
The political climate of Cather's Quebec reflects the close-knit church and crown arrangement that existed in France since 1516, when Pope Leo X signed a concordat with King Francis I accepting financial settlement for the king's right to nominate candidates to all major benefices, a right Louis XIV exercised in the selection of both Bishop Laval and Bishop Saint-Vallier. Canadian historian W.J. Eccles explains that in the enterprise of New France, "the crown . . . initiated the work of the clergy." It was a case of "common arms, the drive to convert all the pagan peoples of the northern segment of the continent to Christianity" (26-27). Cather's reference to the clash between Laval and Frontenac over the use of brandy in the fur trade is revealing in this regard. Frontenac's disobedience in trade policies and other matters led to his recall in 1682. Solidarity of principle enabled church and crown to make their "little capital" in New France, as Cather puts it, "the goal of so many fantastic dreams" (8). "As the number of settlers increased," continues Eccles, "the role of the clergy became less that of a mission to the Indians and more of a mission to the French colonists" (27). When schools and hospitals established for Indians were generally spurned by them, those institut ions were maintained to serve the French settlers. By 1640 Quebec boasted a school, a hospital, and a college for advanced studies. "Sizeable towns in France might have envied them" (27-28).
Cather's novel highlights the role of the religious communities of Counter Reformation France in managing and staffing these institutions. While the Jesuits are presented as pre-eminent in the mission field, Cather acknowledges other communities vital to the colony. Noteworthy among women's communities are the Ursulines, who arrived in 1639 and under the direction of Marie de l'Incarnation founded a convent school with both day and boarding components (Cécile attends the day school before her mother's illness). The Hospitallers (an Augustinian community of sisters) arrived with the Ursulines, founded the Hotel-Dieu at Quebec, and later managed the General Hospital founded by Bishop Saint-Vallier. The Hospitallers singled out by Cather are the mystic Catherine de Saint-Augustin and Mother Jean-Francoise Juchereau. Finally, the Congregation of Notre Dame, founded in 1658 by Marguerite Bourgeoys, developed schools in and around Montreal and as far away as the Isle of Orleans. It is in their church in Montreal that recluse Jeanne Le Ber had her cell constructed. In general, the missionaries who came to the colony were well-educated and highly motivated, particularly the Jesuits and Sulpicions, and the secular clerics (parish priests) were hand-picked by the directors of the Paris Foreign Mission Society.
The intention of the church and crown was to establish a Catholic version of the Calvinist model being established in Massachusetts several hundred miles to the south, where John Winthrop, Frontenac's counterpart in New England, reminded his "Saints" that "we shall be as a city upon a hill. . . . [with t]he eyes of all people . . . upon us" (111). The heroic status Cather bestows on her French missionaries in both Shadows and the Archbishop implies her informed discrimination between the colonial agendas of the English and French in America. The missionary efforts of Puritan New England "pale by comparison to the work done by the Jesuits a few hundred miles away," claims historian James Moore. "The justly acclaimed John Eliot . . . had no real successor in missionary activity. . . . Various excuses were offered then and later for the Englishman's lack of missionary zeal toward the Indian . . . . Indians were seen as threats, as enemies, as a kind of savage nuisance to be removed, not Christianized" (37-38).
Much of the complex history I have simplified and summarized here is "felt upon the page[es of Shadows on the Rock] without being specifically named there," according to Cather's "démeublé" principles. To loosely apply what Cather claimed about Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the factual matter of Quebec "is presented as if unconsciously; by the reserved, fastidious hand of an artist" (On Writing 41). Cather detected at Quebec a "rhythm" so "very hard for an American to catch," and the "honest try" she made required much research, four additional visits, and a return to France to gather background material. Due to her brief experience with her setting, reading preparation was of greater importance for this novel than any other. Historian Parkman initially appealed to Cather because of his romanticism and strong feeling for narrative, but she emphatically rejected his bigoted views of Bishop Lavel and the Jesuits. For a positive estimate of Laval, she used a new biography in the Makers of Canada series by Abbé Henri Scott of Sainte-Foy, Quebec, with whom she developed a warm friendship. Her chief source for the missionary history of France was the Jesuit Relations, reports from the mission field published annually in Paris from 1632-1673, and she copied the story of Noel Chabanel almost verbatim from the "Relation of 1649-50." She read the letters of Marie de l'Incarnation, Mother Juchereau's Les annals de l'Hotel-Dieu de Quebec, Baron de La Hontan's Voyages and the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon. Her grasp of her subject remains a challenge for many of her critics, who fail to catch that "rhythm" she tried so very hard to catch.
Text and Themes
The text of Shadows begins with its title and epigraph. The title comes from 1 Chronicles 29:15, the source of the L atin inscription Dies Nostri Quast Umbra, "Our days as if a shadow," on the wall sundial in the Laval Seminar courtyard. The complete King James verse reads, "[F]or we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding." The rock upon which the shadows are cast offers stability during earthly exile; it represents the transcendent reality Thomas Aquinas defines as "not composed of matter and form" (1:15-16). As Cather's Jean Marie Latour reflects in the Archbishop, "the Hebrews of the Old Testament, always being carried captive into foreign lands, their rock was an idea of God" (103). The novel's epigraph emphasizes the migratory theme of the verse from Chronicles. Taken from a letter of Marie de l'Incarnation responding to a request from one of her siblings in France for Canadian seeds, it expresses preference for French flowers over native ones and conveys both a sense of exile and the task of transplanting Old World culture to a new land.
Cultural transplanting is the novel's dominant enterprise, and Cather's particular sympathy is evident in celebrating the heroism of Quebec's nuns with a line from the opening of Virgil's Aeneid: "Inferretque deos Latio" ("And march his gods into Latium"). Aeneas's carrying the gods of Troy into Italy and founding a new people is applied to the advance of Europe upon the Americas and highlights the essential role of peaceful domesticity in the process, that "a new society begins with salad dressing more than with the destruction of Indian villages" (On Writing 16). "When an adventurer carries his gods with him into a remote and savage country," Cather explains, "the colony he founds . . . will have graces . . . . Its history will shine with bright incidents, slight . . . but precious . . . " (116). Accordingly, the transplanting and defense of French gods is evident in the simple scene where Cécile and Jacques marvel at the fortress altar of Notre dame de la Victoire. "The outer wall . . . low and thick, with many battlements," guards the tabernacle, an "arched gateway . . . [where] the Host was kept." Not only does this altar duplicate the fortress of Quebec as a defense of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and of the cults of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anne (all under siege during the Reformation), it also suggests the theological system transported from France. To these children, the altar is a faithful "reproduction" of Heaven "made in France by people who knew" (77).
Besides the transportation and defense of this culture and worldview, its adaptation to, development, and tr ansformation in the New World is also illustrated in "slight . . . but precious" incidents. The setting up of the crèche from France is such an incident. The figures are traditional and French-made, yet instead of being placed in a stable, they are grouped "under a booth of fir branches" Cécile refers to as a "cabine . . . like those the [Franciscan] missionaries built . . . to say the mass" near the St. Charles River in 1615 (127-28). Cécile's cabine represents an adaptation of the French crèche to Canada and prepares for Jacques's donation of a toy beaver to "the little Jesus." When Cécile hesitates to include such an untraditional animal, her wise neighbor Madame Pommier explains, "Our Lord died for Canada as well as for the world over there, and the beaver is our very special animal" (131).
As a French-born colonist who came to Canada at a very early age, Cécile plays a unique role as a moderating force between the Canadian-born and the French-born in this transformation. She sympathizes with missionaries like Hector Saint-Cyr and Noel Chabanel, who are so attached to "the decencies, the elegancies" of the academic lives they left behind in France that they make vows of perpetuam stabilitatem to remain committed to the challenges of evangelizing among the native tribes (175, 178). When Pierre Charron scorns the clerical leaders as "too French," Cécile objects, by singling out Father Hector. When Charron dismisses both this missionary and Bishop Laval as of the ilk of Bishop Saint-Vallier and gloats over being Canadian-born, including Cécile in that category, she emphatically protests: "Why, I wasn't at all! You know that" (200-01). Cécile is easily overlooked as the novel's major agent in the peaceful negotiation between Old and New World culture. However, she remains tenaciously devoted to the French ways of her mother, guarding their survival as she guards the parsley from frost. She acknowledges the wisdom of her French heritage, and she respects authority, appreciating the order in their lives sustained by Laval and the protection provided by Count Frontenac. Yet she prefers Quebec to the Paris she hardly remembers, "feeling . . . that there would never be anything better in the world for her than . . . . this rock" (123); she favors the North American Jesuit martyrs over those of Lyon and Vienne, and is outspoken in her opposition to her father's intention to return to France. What is "felt upon the page without being specifically named there" is the control she exerts over Pierre Charron.
Charron is a complex character. The "romantic" image of the "free Frenchman of the great forests" is no more than a superficial label. The "good manners of the Old World" and the "dash and daring of the New" (198) conflict in him until the very end of the novel. His anti-clericism stems directly from personal disappointment over Jeanne Le Ber, who preferred to be Christ's bride rather than his. His violation of her cloister even shocks Auclair, who is Cather's rationalist. As a perceptive twelve-year-old, Cécile detects "Charron's perverse moods, when he liked to . . . antagonize everyone" (252). He is in one of these moods when he scoffs at Captain Pondaven's Marian miracle of the rescue of a baby from an ape in Saint-Malo: "Oh, you have nothing over us in the way of miracles! . . . Here . . . . [e]very Friday the beaver is changed into a fish, so that good Catholics may eat him without sin." Cécile meets his challenge: "He is only considered a fish by the Church so that hunters off in the woods can have something to eat on Fridays." The captain declares Cécile the winner, noting that "[a] man can make fun of the angels, if he sets out to" (256-57). Yet this same Pierre Charron tells Cécile that "every autumn, before I start for the woods, I have a mass said . . . for madame, your mother" (201), and admits to Auclair that Jeanne Le Ber's prayers have delivered him from death "three times in the woods" (207).
That Cécile will be capable of further "civilizing" her future husband is evident in the novel's last books, in her response to her father's lack of feeling for the life he is so anxious to leave behind in Canada, and in her understanding of his limitations as a man. She perceives that her father loved Pierre for the same reason he loved Frontenac; "both had the qualities he did not have himself" (305). What remains unstated is that Pierre Charron needs the qualities Auclair and his daughter have. When we last hear of Charron, in the Epilogue, he and Cécile are raising four boys, "the Canadians of the future" (320), and living in "a commodious house" in the Upper Town (319). The contentious, Ca nadian-born woodsman now lives among the colonial gentry. The beaver has made its way into the French-made crèche under the Canadian fir branches. The process of Cécile's achievement is "felt . . . without being . . . named."
Shadows on the Rock celebrates the blossoming of French colonial Quebec, Cather's toy city refuge, in elaborate descriptions. Foremost among them is the opening of the fourth book, where Quebec "gleam[s] above the river" in the rising June sun "like an altar with many candles, . . . a holy city in an old legend" (195). The exquisite set piece is clearly an alternative to the Puritan city upon a hill, although Cather simultaneously compromises the glory of her French Catholic outpost with spectacular autumnal sunsets, images of decline. In the first Cécile is sledding with Jacques while the sky "throb[ed] with fiery vapours" and "shone with . . . that limpid, celestial, holy blue . . . seen when the light is golden" (122). In the second scene, Cécile is also with Jacques, and the afterglow-its crimson "welling up wave after wave"-is identified as "peculiar to Quebec" (267). A few pages earlier Cather introduces another questionable but stunningly beautiful set piece describing the rougissement of the autumnal foliage. Once again, pride of place flirts with defeat: "all the vast Canadian shores were clothed with a splendour never seen in France" (262).
The "Epilogue" further confirms doom. As Cather admitted to reviewer Wilbur Cross, "Quebec is . . . the curious endurance" of a "narrow" culture, of "another age"; it is "like an old song" or "a legend" "left over from the past" (On Writing 15). Both Bishop Saint Vaillier and Apothecary Auclair, old men in the "Epilogue," muse that in Quebec "nothing changes" (319), but within fifty years, this "holy city" will fall to the English, and France will be driven from Canada. Yet we can entertain "many fantastic dreams," many "might have beens," as Philip Marchand does in his recent book. Let me conclude with his summary:
A few different turnings of history and you, reader, would be reading this book in French and speaking to your children in French. The United States would not exist. Some sort of French, Catholic state would dominate the continent, and the Ojibway, the Sioux, the Shawnee, the Chickasaw nation s would have the same political and cultural presence as African-Americans now do. The English-speaking portion of the continent would still be largely hemmed in between the Alleghenies and the Atlantic. (8)
Of course, if history had turned out differently, Marchand would not have written his book--but we get his drift.
Adams, Henry. Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. 1904. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Bible. King James Version. Nashville TN: Nelson, 1984.
Bireley, Robert. The Refashioning of Catholicism, 1450-1700: A Reassessment of the Counter Reformation. Washington DC: Catholic U of America P, 1999.
Carney, Raymond. "Introduction." Mont Saint Michel and Chartes. Henry Adams. New York: Penguin, 1986. ix-xxxvii.
Cather, Willa. Autograph Frontispiece. Shadows on the Rock. Autograph Edition. Vol. 10. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1938. This typescript with Cather's corrections is also reproduced as illustration 4 in the Scholarly Edition of Shadows cited below.
________. Death Comes for the Archbishop. 1927. Cather Scholarly Edition. Ed. John J. Murphy and Charles W. Mignon. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1999.
________. "Nebraska: The End of the Fist Cycle." The Nation, 5 Sept. 1923: 236-38.
________. On Writing: Critical Studies of Writing as an Art. New York: Knopf, 1949.
________. The Professor's House. 1925 Cather Scholarly Edition. Ed. James Woodress and Frederick M. Link . Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2002.
________. Shadows on the Rock. 1931. Cather Scholarly Edition. Ed. John J. Murphy, David Stouck, and Frederick M. Link. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2005.
Eccles, W. J. Essays on New France. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1987.
Eliot, Thomas Stearns. Ash Wednesday. 1930. Collected Poems 1909-1962. New York: Harcourt, 1963. 83-95.
Lewis, Edith. Willa Cather Living: A Personal Record. 1953. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2000.
Marchand, Philip. Ghost Empire: How the French Almost Conquered North America. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.
Moore, James T. Indian and Jesuit: A Seventeenth-Century Encounter. Chicago: Loyola UP, 1982.
Parkman, Francis. France and England in North America. 1851-92. 2 vols. New York: Library of America, 1983.
Review of Shadows on the Rock. Scribner's, October 1931, 444.
Thomas Aquinas. "Of the Simplicity of God" (Question 3, Second Article). Summa Theologica. Trans. English Dominicans. 5 vols. Westminster MD, Christian Classics, 1981. 1:15-16.
Winthrop, John. "A Model of Christian Charity." Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 4th ed. Ed. Nina Baym et al. New York: Norton, 1995. 1 01-12.
About the Contributor:John J. Murphy, Professor Emeritus of American Literature, Brigham Young University, Utah, is the former Editor of Literature and Belief, a journal devoted to religious values in literature, and of the Willa Cather Newsletter and Review; he serves on the editorial board of the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition, University of Nebraska Press. He is volume editor of the scholarly editions of Death Comes for the Archbishop (1999) and Shadows on the Rock (2005). Professor Murphy is the author of My Antonia: The Road Home (1989) and more than sixty journal articles and book chapters on Cather and other American writers, including the annual bibliographical essay "Fiction: 1900 to the 1930s" in American Literary Scholarship (1980-87). He is the editor of Critical Essays on Willa Cather (1984); Willa Cather: Family, Community, and History (1990); Flannery O'Connor and the Christian Mystery (1997); Willa Cather: New Facts, New Glimpses, Revisions (2008), and Cather Studies 8 (forthcoming 2009), as well as of the Penguin My Antonia (1994). Murphy was born in New York and earned his degrees from St. John's University in that city; he has also studied at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Notre Dame, and Oregon. In 1995 he served as visiting lecturer at Beijing Foreign Studies University; and in 2001 as a visiting professor at the University of Leon, Spain, in 2003, at the University of Santiago, Spain, and in 2008 at Fu Jen University, Taiwan. He was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in 1982; in 2000 his edition of the Archbishop won the Historical Society of New Mexico's Twitchell Award; in 2007 he co-directed the 11th International Cather Seminar in Paris and Provence, France.