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16th International Willa Cather Seminar

16th International Willa Cather Seminar

Sunday, June 11, 2017 to Saturday, June 17, 2017
Duquesne University
600 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15282

"Beyond Nebraska: Willa Cather's Pittsburgh"

Registration Instructions: Please be sure to select your registration option (Full, Student, or Cather Enthusiast) by clicking the red registration bar, and then select your add-on tickets for meal plans, dorm lodging, parking, and optional excursions. 

Registration is now open for the next International Cather Seminar, scheduled for June 11-17, 2017, at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University. During Cather's ten years in Pittsburgh, she worked as an editor, teacher, reviewer, and freelance writer. As importantly, she collected friends and mixed with all sorts of Pittsburghers. She published extensively—not just hundreds of profiles and reviews, but more than thirty short stories, a collection of poetry, April Twilights (1903), and The Troll Garden, her first collection of stories. After moving to New York in 1906, she visited Pittsburgh until 1916, writing parts of several novels at the McClung residence. Despite the importance Pittsburgh played in her life, much remains undiscovered. This seminar seeks to further explore the influences of Pittsburgh on Cather’s life and career.

Hurry! Early-bird registration ends May 1. After May 1, prices increase to $425 general registration or $325 for students/emeriti/partners.

A $25 administrative fee will be charged for cancellations by May 25, 2017. After May 25, we will be unable to process cancellations.

Watch this page for the full seminar schedule—available May 2017!

Featured Speakers

Featured Speakers
Featured Speakers

Keynote speaker Rick Sebak has written, produced, and narrated more than forty engagingly quirky documentaries about the people, places, and institutions of Pittsburgh, including the 22 programs in the “Pittsburgh History Series.” His scrapbook documentaries educate and entertain in equal measure.

Selections from Paul’s Case, the opera, with music and commentary from:
Tenor Jonathan Blalock, a Rossini and Mozart specialist, has received numerous accolades for his 20th and 21st century opera performances. He originated the role of Paul in the world premiere production of Paul’s Case in Arlington, Virginia, in 2013, which transferred to New York City in January 2014 as part of that year’s Prototype Festival. Alex Ross of The New Yorker called his performance “transfixing,” and named the production one of the top ten events of 2014.

Writer and editor Steve Smith has been involved with music and media for nearly thirty years, most recently as director of publications at National Sawdust in Brooklyn. Smith was formerly assistant arts editor of the Boston Globe, music editor at Time Out New York, and reviewer for the New York Times.

Award-winning composer Gregory Spears adapted, with Kathryn Walat as co-librettist, Cather’s classic story “Paul’s Case” for his first opera in 2013. His work on Paul’s Case, the opera, was called “coolly entrancing” by the Boston Globe and “ravishing” by the New York Times. His opera Fellow Travelers, based on a 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon, received its world premiere in June 2016 at the Cincinnati Opera.

Seminar Schedule

Seminar Schedule
Seminar Schedule


Sunday, June 11

1:00-4:00 Check in for all conference-goers

Towers Dorm
Duquesne University
1345 Vickroy Street
Pittsburgh PA 15219-2115

1:30 and 2:30 Cather’s Pittsburgh tours

Vans will depart from the front of Towers Dorm
Vans will pick up at Mellon Square Parking Lot Park (upper level)

4:00 August Wilson House tour, with Paul Ellis, Esq., Wilson’s nephew

4:30-6:00 Dinner served at “The Incline,” Duquesne’s dining hall, 1st floor of the Union

Seminarians who linger at the August Wilson home may wish to make alternate dinner plans

6:30 Refreshments served in Bayer Learning Center rotunda

Late arrivals may pick up seminar registration packets here
All seminarians need to sign up for the week’s tour times with Tracy Tucker

7:00-7:30 Welcome and introductions - Bayer Learning Center auditorium

Ashley Olson, Willa Cather Foundation
Dr. James Swindal, Dean of McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

7:30-8:30 Keynote address by Rick Sebak - Bayer Learning Center auditorium


Monday, June 12 

9:00-11:00 Cather’s Life in Fin de Siecle Pittsburgh - Bayer Learning Center auditorium

Tim Bintrim, St. Francis University and seminar co-director
James Jaap, Penn State Greater Allegheny and seminar co-director
Kim Vanderlaan, California University of Pennsylvania

11:30-12:30 Lunch - The Incline, Duquesne Union

12:30-2:00 Concurrent sessions

1A. Cather as Poet and Journalist - Bayer 102  - Matthew Lavin, chair

Robert Thacker, St. Lawrence University - “A Poet in Pittsburgh, 1896-1906”
Jane Dressler,  Kent State University - “The ‘Star System,’ Operas, and Critics: Willa Cather Reviews Opera in Pittsburgh”
Hunter Plummer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - “Playing the Newspaperwoman”

          1B. Eco/feminism - Bayer 103 - Angela Conrad, chair

Jeanette Schollaert, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - “Ecofeminist Ethics of Care on the Narrative Margins of Cather’s The Professor’s House and Death Comes for the Archbishop”
Abandon Schuman, Penn State Greater Allegheny - “Stein, Cather, and Queer Theory”
Tracy Tucker, Willa Cather Foundation - “The Vanishing Indian: Grave-Robbin, Relic-Hunting, and Native Americans in Cather’s World”

2:00-2:15 Coffee break - Bayer Learning Center rotunda 

2:30-4:00 Concurrent sessions

2A. International Influences - Bayer 102- Sherrill Harbison, chair

Diane Prenatt, Marian University - “The Pittsburgh ‘French Soirées’: Orality and Translation in Cather’s Fiction” 
JoAnne Katzmarek, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, emerita- “‘You Will Write About Your Own Country’: Anton Chekhov and Willa Cather” 
Peter Sullivan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (ret.) - “Cather’s Soldier Protagonist in One of Ours and Friedrich Schiller’s The Maid of Orleans: Cather’s Connections to the Joan Arc Narrative in Pittsburgh and New York”

2B. Over in Allegheny - Bayer 103 - Julie Olin-Ammentorp, chair

Morgan Shawfield, Penn State Greater Allegheny - “The Artist Among Machines: Willa Cather’s Depiction of Naturalism in an Industrial Age”
Joe Murphy, Fu Jen Catholic University - “The Venetian Window: Pittsburgh Glass and Modernist Community in Cather’s ‘Double Birthday’”
Todd Richardson, University of Nebraska-Omaha - “The Most Exciting Attractions are Between Two Opposites That Never Meet: Willa Cather and Andy Warhol”

4:30-6:00 Dinner served - The Incline, Duquesne Union

6:00 North Side tours starting at 6:00 

Vans depart from the Towers dorm at 5:30 and 6:00
Others may choose to leave early and eat in the Oakland neighborhood before the performance

7:30 Organ recital - Calvary United Methodist Church - 971 Beech Ave., Pittsburgh PA

Cather’s first musical event in Pittsburgh was Frederic Archer’s organ recital, June 27, 1896. Cather attended this concert at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland the day after her arrival in the city. The modern performance will be played on the 1895 Farrand & Votey organ—the same builder who provided the Carnegie’s organ. Archer also played the dedication of the Calvary organ in 1895. Calvary Methodist is also known for its impressive collection of Tiffany stained glass windows. A brief history of the church will be included in the presentation.


Tuesday, June 13 

9:00-10:30 Plenary – Ann Romines - Law School 303 

10:45-12:15 Concurrent sessions

3A. Musical Friendships - Law School 303 - Kim Vanderlaan, chair

John Flannigan, Prairie State College (ret.) - “Discovering a Vital Friendship: Willa Cather and Ethel Herr Litchfield” 
Margaret Brucia, Temple University Rome (ret.) - “A Passing Acquaintance: Willa and Julie in Pittsburgh” 
Jane Dressler, Kent State University - “Lillian Nordica (1857-1914): ‘Valiant Countrywoman’ and Cather’s Inspiration from Nebraska to Pittsburgh and Beyond”

3B. Revisiting the Archives - Law School 308 - Robert Thacker, chair

Mark J. Madigan, Nazareth College - “Were Myra, Oswald, and Nellie Once Mabel, Calvin, and Margie?: On a Cather Manuscript Fragment” 
Courtney Lawton, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - “Cather and ‘The Bother of Business:’ A Critical Overview of the Houghton Mifflin Company Archives”
Matthew Lavin, University of Pittsburgh - “Willa Cather and ‘Modern’ Vocabulary: A Lexical Approach”

12:15-1:15 Lunch served - The Incline, Duquesne Union

1:15-2:45 Concurrent sessions

4A. Chinese Stories - Law School 303 - Joseph Murphy, chair 

Michael Gorman, Hiroshima City University - “China, Christianity, and Cather’s ‘The Conversion of Sum Loo’” 
Andrew Wu, Fu Jen Catholic University - “‘A Son of the Celestial’ and ‘The Conversion of Sum Loo’: Pre- and Post-Pittsburgh Texts 
Timothy Bintrim, St. Francis University - “The ‘Conversion’ of  Yee Oi, Wife of  ‘Pittsburgh’s Richest Chinaman’”

4B. My Ántonia - Law School 308 - Peter Sullivan, chair

Max Frazier, U.S. Air Force Academy (ret.) - “Cather’s First War Novel: My Ántonia and the Great War” 
Josh Dolezal, Central College - “‘Brushed by the Wing of a Great Feeling’: The Embodied Mind in My Ántonia” 
John Jacobs, Shenandoah University (ret.) - “My Ántonia, a Storyteller’s Story”

3:00-12:00 Free time to explore Pittsburgh!

4:30-6:00 Dinner served at The Incline or explore downtown Pittsburgh restaurants and shops, the Warhol Museum, Heinz History Center, the National Aviary, or a sporting event!


Wednesday, June 14 

9:00-11:00 Roundtable - The Complete Letters of Willa Cather Project - Law School 303

Andrew Jewell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Melissa Homestead, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kari Ronning, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Emily Rau, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
Gabrielle Kiriloff, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
Lori Nevole, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

11:30 - 12:30 Lunch - The Incline, Duquesne Union

12:30-2:00 Concurrent sessions

5A. The Song of the Lark - Law School 303 - John Flannigan, chair

Sherrill Harbison, University of Massachusetts Amherst - “Vital Thea Kronborg”
Elizabeth Hartswick, Penn State Greater Allegheny - “Cather: Giving Voice to the Female Artist” 
Marvin Friedman, “Seminar Serendipity: The Wieners as Prototypes of the Nathanmeyers in The Song of the Lark”

5B. Sapphira and the Slave Girl - Law School 308 - Ann Romines, chair

Sarah Clere, The Citadel - “Sapphira’s Use of Nancy in Sapphira and the Slave Girl”
Jeanne Collins, “The Underground Railroad:  Some of its History, and its Connection to Sapphira and the Slave Girl” 
Jon Mark Mikkelsen, Missouri Western (ret.) - “‘Africanism’ and ‘Race’ in Sapphira and the Slave Girl” 

2:15-3:45 Concurrent sessions

6A. One of Ours and A Lost Lady - Law School 303 - Max Frazier, chair

Richard Harris, Webb Institute - “Willa Cather and Claude Wheeler Go to Church: A Close Reading of the St. Ouen Passage in One of Ours” 
Elisabeth Bayley, Loyola University - “Ideological Frameworks and the Construction of Masculinity in One of Ours" 
Emily Leahy, Glendon College of York University, Ontario - “‘Repressed Memory’: Masculinity, Modernity, and Indigenization in Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady”

6B. Revelations in Letters & Scrapbooks - Law School 308 - Mark Madigan, chair

Melissa Homestead, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - "Bonfires of Our Vanities: Separating the Outsized Myths from the Modest Realities of Destruction of Cather’s Letters"
Laurie Weber, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - “Roscoe Cather: Willa’s First Middlebrow Reader”
Sandra Hanna, “Cather’s Pittsburgh Life: Her Friendship with Ethelbert Nevin, ‘My Own Dear Boy’”

3:45-5:15 Concurrent sessions

7A. “Paul’s Case” in the 21st Century: Teaching Cather - Law School 303 - Tracy Tucker, chair

Julie Olin-Ammentorp, LeMoyne College - “Paul’s Case” in the 21st Century: Developing Online Teaching Materials" 
Charles Johanningsmeier, University of Nebraska-Omaha - “Paul’s Case” in the 21st Century: Developing Online Teaching Materials" 
Charles A. Peek, University of Nebraska-Kearney (ret.) - “Case Studies in Everyone’s Paradise Lost: A Reflection on the Principal Story Line in Cather’s Major Fiction”


7B. Performance and Reality - Law School 308 - Sarah Clere, chair

Guy Reynolds, University of Nebraska-Lincoln - “The Theater of the Real: Cather, Modjeska, Sontag” 
Olivia Tracy, Regis University - “‘Coming in with the Tide’: Negotiating Immigrant Experience in Cather’s Dancing Bodies” 
Elaine Smith, University of South Florida - “In Defense of Family Values: Privacy and Performance in Willa Cather’s ‘Old Mrs. Harris’”

5:15-6:30 Dinner - The Incline, Duquesne Union, or leave early and eat at the Red Ring before Cather Trivia!

7:00-9:00 Cather Trivia - Red Ring - Power Center, 1015 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

The Red Ring serves fresh, locally sourced, made-from-scratch foods, including delicious house macs, unique sandwiches, hand-crafted burgers, fresh salads & more!

Thursday, June 15 

8:30-10:30 Roundtable - Teaching Cather - Law School 303

Steve Shively, Utah State University 
Michael Schueth, Collin College 
Nalini Bhushan, Smith College 
Charles A. Peek, University of Nebraska-Kearney (ret.)

10:30-10:45 Coffee break

10:45-12:15 Roundtable - Pittsburgh Art - Law School 303 - Richard Harris, chair

Guy Reynolds, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
Louise Lippincott, Carnegie Museum of Art

12:15-1:00 Lunch - The Incline, Duquesne Union

1:00-7:30 Tours and free time in the Oakland neighborhood

Vans will depart from the Duquesne Union at 1:15, 3:30, and 5:45. You may also choose to take an Uber to Oakland at a time that’s convenient to you, or to return to campus prior to the Carnegie symphony performance. Seminarians will receive free admission to the Carnegie Museum of Art after 3:00 p.m. and a list of restaurants and attractions will be available.

4:30-6:00 Dinner served - Duquesne dining, or stay in the neighborhood for dinner on your own 

8:00-9:30 Willa Cather’s Iron City Music - Carnegie Music Hall 

4400 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 
Director Yugo Ikach leads the Washington (PA) Symphony Orchestra in a performance that gives a glimpse into Cather’s musical world in Pittsburgh. Those in attendance will hear a symphonic concert much like those Cather attended in this very hall, including some of the music that she reviewed for newspapers and magazines. 


Friday, June 16 

9:00-10:30 Plenary - John Murphy - Africa Room, Duquesne Union 

10:30-11:15 Coffee & Crossword Competition - Africa Room, Duquesne Union 

11:15-12:30 Lunch - The Incline, Duquesne Union

12:30-2:15 Concurrent sessions

8A. Industry & Art - Law School 303 - Charmion Gustke, chair

Kelsey Squire, Ohio Dominican University - “Echoes of Pittsburgh: Industry and Industriousness in Cather’s ‘The Willing Muse’” 
Lt. Col. Elizabeth Mathias, U.S. Air Force Academy - “Plaster of Pittsburgh: Andrew Carnegie, the Cast Collection, and Willa Cather”
Kim Vanderlaan, California University of Pennsylvania - “‘The Professor’s Commencement’ and The Professor’s House: Two Failed Romantics”


8B. Early Stories and Prototypes - Law School 308 - Rick Millington, chair

Mark Robison, Union College - “Editor and Author at The Home Monthly: Cather Boosts Her Writing Career” 
Barbara Hustwit, College of Wooster (ret.) - “Just Who Were These People? Willa Cather’s Pittsburgh Prototypes”

2:30-4:00 Concurrent sessions

9A. Pittsburgh and Social Class - Law School 303 - Kelsey Squire, chair

James Jaap, Penn State Greater Allegheny - “Cather, Henry Nicklemann, and Pittsburgh’s New Middle Class” 
Charmion Gustke, Belmont University - “‘The Glaring Affirmation of the Omnipotence of Wealth’: Big Steel and Class Consciousness in ‘Paul’s Case’” 
Angela Conrad, Bloomfield College - “Cather’s Pittsburgh and the Alchemy of Social Class”

9B. Bicycles and Automobiles - Law School 308 - Mark Robison, chair

Virgil Albertini, Northwest Missouri State (ret.) (read by Steve Shively) - “Cather and Her Bicycle in Nebraska and Pittsburgh” 
Barry Hudek, University of Mississippi - “Willa Crasher: Speed, Modernism, and Crash Aesthetics in Cather’s Fiction” 
Daryl Palmer, Regis University - “Writing Red Cloud in and through Pittsburgh: Why ‘Tommy, the Unsentimental’ is the Most Interesting Early Work by Willa Cather”

5:00-5:30 Nancy Savery plays selections from Ethelbert Nevin - Union Ballroom

5:30-7:00 Seminar Banquet - Africa Room, Duquesne Union 

7:15-8:30 Paul’s Case, the Opera selections and Q&A - PNC Music Hall in the Mary Papper Music Building


Saturday, June 17 

7:00-9:00 Breakfast - Towers Dorm multi-purpose room, for those joining us for the tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater 

9:30 Charter coach departs for Fallingwater

Board the coach in the parking lot on Bluff Street

10:30-11:30 Arrive at Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright property

Explore the woodlands and modern sculpture garden with work from Andy Goldsworthy, Sir Anthony Caro, Claes Oldenburg, and Philip King. Spoil your lunch with hand-dipped Hagan ice cream in the Greenhouse Café!

12:30 Arrive at Fallingwater, boxed lunch on the grounds

1:30 Fallingwater tours begin

We will go in several groups, leaving six minutes apart; once our tour times are called, tour staff will not admit us late, so please remain with the group.

3:00 Depart Fallingwater

4:30 Arrive at Duquesne 




For any questions surrounding the International Seminar, please contact Tracy Tucker via email at or by phone, 402-746-2653.

Dr. Timothy Bintrim, Saint Francis University
Dr. James Jaap, Penn State Greater Allegheny

Site Director:
Dr. Faith Barrett, Duquesne University

WCF Staff:
Ashley Olson, Executive Director
Tracy Tucker, Education Director

Travel, Parking, Lodging, and Meals

Travel, Parking, Lodging, and Meals
Travel, Parking, Lodging, and Meals

Conference-goers should plan to fly into Pittsburgh International; the airport is roughly 30 minutes from Duquesne’s campus. See below for taxi, shuttle, bus, and car rental information.

Complete information on transportation from Pittsburgh International Airport to Duquesne can be found HERE  (use the menu on the left to select car rental, taxi & shuttle, public transportation, etc.). Costs for a taxi from PIT to Duquesne is roughly $50-60; shuttle costs are roughly $35 (reservations are available but not required); public transportation is $3.75 but requires exact change and can be difficult with baggage.

Daytime garage parking is available on campus in the Forbes Avenue Parking Garage, at $12/day for weekday parking. It is a fully automated, covered garage, centrally located on the Duquesne campus.Pay stations are available one levels 1 & 8.

A weeklong parking permit with overnight and in/out privileges can be obtained by advance arrangement only. Advance parking passes with overnight parking are $75.

On Campus (6 nights)
Double room: $195
Single room: $225
If you choose to stay on campus, all areas will have Wi-Fi. A computer lab is available with printing capabilities. Laundry facilities are located on each floor of the hall, and all rooms have their own thermostat. Hangers are not provided; very limited numbers of refrigerators are available. Each floor has a lounge area.

Arrangements have been made for a reduced conference rate at many downtown hotels. Mention “Duquesne University” when making reservations for the discounted rate. Hotels reserve the right to limit the number of discounted rooms. (Of course, you are not limited to these hotels.)

  • William Penn/Omni Westin Hotel, 412-281-7100
  • Marriott City Center, 412-471-4000, 
  • Cambria Suites, 412-381-6687

Parking fees of $20-30/day apply at downtown hotels.


$175 for all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners from the evening of Sunday, June 11 to the morning of Saturday, June 17. Meals will be provided through Duquesne's campus dining system, using meal cards.

Seminarians staying on or off campus may also choose to pay cash for meals eaten on campus.

Call for Papers

Call for Papers
Call for Papers

Dates: June 11-17, 2017
Location: Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Directors: Dr. Timothy Bintrim, Saint Francis University
Dr. James Jaap, Penn State Greater Allegheny

Site Director: Dr. Faith Barrett, Duquesne University

Willa Cather left Nebraska in 1896 and for the next decade made Pittsburgh her primary residence. During these ten years, she worked as an editor, teacher, reviewer, and freelance writer. She collected friends and mixed with all sorts of Pittsburghers. She published extensively—not only hundreds of profiles and reviews, but also more than thirty short stories; a collection of poetry, April Twilights (1903); and The Troll Garden, her first collection of stories. After moving to New York in 1906, she continued visiting Pittsburgh until 1916, writing parts of several novels at the McClung residence.

Despite the importance Pittsburgh played in her life, much remains undiscovered. This seminar will further explore the influences of Pittsburgh on Cather’s life and career.
We invite proposals on a range of topics related to Cather and Pittsburgh:

Cather’s Pittsburgh Writings

  • Signed, pseudonymous, and unsigned works written in the city
  • Daily journalism, editorial work, reviews, and correspondence 
  • The lost Pittsburgh novel (Fanny) 
  • Works with Western Pennsylvania settings and references 
  • Echoes of Pittsburgh in Cather’s novels

Cather’s Pittsburgh Life

  • Life in boardinghouses and with the McClungs 
  • Family, friends, and acquaintances 
  • Clubs, excursions, and other diversions 
  • Forays to New York, Virginia, Washington, and her first trips abroad 
  • Cather’s experience of music: symphonic, operatic, sacred, classical, folk, popular, and jazz 
  • The Carnegie International and art in public and private collections

Pittsburgh’s People and International Connections

  • Cather’s place in Pittsburgh’s diverse literary pantheon 
  • Cather’s troubled relationship with race and ethnicity: representations and elisions 
  • Social class, immigration, and Americanization; religious and political minorities 
  • Cather’s journalistic commentary on international affairs

Please send 500-word proposals of individual papers to the Willa Cather Foundation’s education director, Tracy Tucker, at, by February 15, 2017. If your paper is accepted, you will be notified by March 15, 2017. You will need to submit your final paper by May 1, 2017. Papers should be 8-10 pages in length (20 minutes when read).

Travel Grants

Travel Grants
Travel Grants

The Willa Cather Foundation provides, through the generosity of International Seminar sponsors, a limited number of student travel grants. The aim of the Willa Cather Foundation is to provide assistance to students by bridging the gap between institutional and departmental support and the actual costs of travel to attend this seminar.

Because funding is limited, preference is given for students presenting seminar papers, demonstrated need, and value of attendance to area of study. Grant recipients will be notified by April 15, 2017.

Funds are disbursed by check at the conclusion of the seminar. Full attendance of the conference is required to receive a travel grant. 

Maps, Pittsburgh Information