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17th International Willa Cather Seminar

17th International Willa Cather Seminar

Monday, June 17, 2019 to Saturday, June 22, 2019
Shenandoah University
1460 University Drive
Winchester, VA 22601

Please join us in Willa's first home, in Frederick County, Virginia, for the 17th International Willa Cather Seminar. In addition to the many scholarly panels and featured speakers (see below), we'll be visiting many of the sites young Willa knew well and remembered all her life: the Baptist church she attended in the hamlet of Back Creek Valley (now Gore), her Grandmother Boak's house where she was born, the Mill House (built by her great-great-grandfather in the 1740s), where her Seibert grandparents ran the mill from 1830s-1870s, and the Confederate cemetery where her Confederate uncle, fatally wounded in a Civil War battle, is buried, as well as other family cemeteries. We'll be entertained by the present owners of Willow Shade, the home where Willa lived with her family for her first nine years. And we'll enjoy a picnic supper at Capon Springs, a resort that Willa's young parents enjoyed. Local relatives of the Cather and Boak families will join us at Shenandoah University (where the Seminar will be based) for dinner and conversation. Wednesday is a day off campus with seminarians visiting Washington, D.C. and spending a day on the Washington Mall, with the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American Heritage and Culture, for which we've obtained passes. Then, on Thursday, we'll go to the beautiful Museum of the Shenandoah Valley for a program celebrating a recent gift, an album quilt adorned with names of Cather relatives and friends from the mid-nineteenth century, and to explore local history and art. Friday's program will end with a festive banquet and program by singer Barbara Davis, followed by local Virginia bluegrass music. And on Saturday morning, there will be a wonderful optional event: a special service led by Reverend Charles Peek for Cather Seminarians at the beautiful Christ Episcopal Church, attended by some Cather relatives and featured in Sapphira and the Slave Girl.  

Marilee Lindemann, University of Maryland
Ann Romines, George Washington University, emerita

Site Director:
John Jacobs, Shenandoah University, emeritus

Sponsored by the Willa Cather Foundation, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Shenandoah University, and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

Featured Speakers

Featured Speakers
Featured Speakers

Keynote speaker Siobhan Somerville is the author of Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture and the forthcoming A Queer Genealogy of Naturalization in the U.S. (Duke). She is Associate Professor of English, African American Studies, and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois. 

Zita Nunes, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland, is the author of Cannibal Democracy: Race and Representation in the Literature of the Americas. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of African American/African Diaspora literature, the literature of the Americas, and literary theory.

Joseph Dimuro is a Continuing Lecturer in the UCLA English Department. His current research focuses on spatial perception in the making of national identities in 20th century American literature, and on the libidinal economy in the works of Cather, Anderson, James and other American writers of the time. 

Christin Taylor is an Assistant Professor of English at Shenandoah University.  Her work focuses on African American literature and culture, Southern studies and representations of the working classes. Her book, Labor Pains: New Deal Fictions of Work, Sex, and Race is forthcoming from the University of Mississippi. 

Matthew Clark Greer is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Syracuse University; his dissertation is titled “Assembling Enslaved Life: Composing Slavery, Places, and Histories in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.”  

Jonathan Noyalas is the Director of the McCormick Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University. His current research focuses on post-emancipation African-American life in the Shenandoah Valley.  He is the author of numerous monographs on the Civil War in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Adeela Al-Kahlili is a board member of the Josephine School Museum which memorializes the founding of an independent African American community in nearby Berryville, Virginia, just after the Civil War.


Presentations and Activities Schedule

Presentations and Activities Schedule
Presentations and Activities Schedule

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Seminar check-in at Shenandoah University’s Student Center
If staying on campus, check-in to your lodging either before or after seminar check-in

5:45 - 7:00 p.m.
Cafeteria dinner service
Meal package begins with Sunday dinner service

7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Welcome your Cather colleagues and enjoy coffee and cookies in the Student Center

Monday, June 17, 2019

9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions

9:15 a.m.
P1. Plenary: African American
Life in Sapphira and the Slave Girl: New Perspectives from Archaeology and History
Panelists: Matthew Clark Greer, Jonathan Noyalas, Ann Romines, Adeela Al-Kahlili
Chair: John Jacobs

11:00 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

M1. Virginia Roots and History 1
Panelists: Andrew Jewell, Daryl Palmer, and Richard Millington
Chair: Sarah Clere

M2. Dislocations
Panelists: Nanci Boisvert, Julie Olin-Ammentorp, and Kimberly Vanderlaan
Chair: Diane Prenatt

12:30 Lunch

1:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

M3. Virginia Roots and History 2
Panelists: Mary Ruth Ryder, James Cody, and Barbara Hustwit
Chair: Steven Shively

M4. Sapphira’s Virginia
Panelists: Sarah Clere and Joseph Murphy
Chair: Charmion Gustke

3:30 p.m.
Tours of Cather’s Virginia
Enjoy a visit to Willow Shade and other sites relevant to Cather’s life and writing, followed by a tour and dinner at Capon Springs resort

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

9:00 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

T5. Unsettling Women 
Panelists: Elizabeth Foulke, Geneva Gano, and J. Hunter Plummer 
Chair: Melissa Homestead

T6. Urban and Rural Diversities in the Short Fiction
Panelists: John Flannigan, Paul Grosskopf, and Yohei Yamamoto
Chair: Timothy Bintrim

10:45 a.m.
P2. Plenary: Unsettled Bodies
“Willa Cather’s Queer Economy,” Joseph Dimuro
“Haptic Narrative: Touch, Violence, and Disability in Sapphira and the Slave Girl,” Guy Reynolds
Chair: Marilee Lindemann

12:15 a.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

T7. Body Matters 
Panelists: Diane Prenatt, Elizabeth Wells, and Charmion Gustke
Chair: Marilee Lindemann

T8. Canons, Contexts, and Communities 
Panelists: Anna Creadick, Matthew Lavin, and Emily Rau
Chair: John Jacobs

3:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

T9. Farms, Mills, Food
Panelists: Tracy Tucker, Steven Shively, and Ann Romines
Chair: Daryl Palmer

T10. Panel: Teaching Cather with Diverse Student Populations 
Panelists: Timothy Cramer, Todd Richardson, Kelsey Squire, and Charles Peek.
Chair: Julie Olin-Ammentorp

6:00 p.m.
Dinner with the Cather Relatives
Join us at the Campus Dining Center as we welcome members of the Virginia Cather family to our gathering!

8:00 p.m.
P3. Keynote Address
“Unsettling Citizenship: Naturalization and Dispossession in Cather’s Time,” Siobhan B. Somerville

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

8:30 a.m.
Board buses for Washington, D.C. at Student Center

We have obtained timed passes for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, with entry times throughout the morning. Other museums on the Washington Mall do not require timed passes and all are free, so you may visit those at your leisure.

Meals in Washington, D.C., will be on your own. Consult your program for suggestions.

6:00 p.m.
Board buses for Shenandoah Univ.
Buses will board at NMAAHC

8:00 p.m.
Cather Trivia at the Student Center
Cash bar, prizes, a legendary battle of memory and skill. Also smack-talk.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

9:00 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

R11. Willa Cather and Others 1
Panelists: Kelsey Squire, Lisbeth Fuisz, and Sallie Ketcham
Chair: Andrew Jewell

R12. Willa Cather and Others 2 
Panelists: John Jacobs, and Hannah Wells
Chair: Mary Ruth Ryder

10:45 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

R13. Africanist Presences 
Panelists: Mark Robison, Tracy Ann Williams, and Barry Hudek
Chair: Richard Millington

R14. Unsettling Ántonia 
Panelists: Aimee Allard, Patti Burris, and K.E. Daft
Chair: Ashley Olson

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:30 p.m.
P4. Plenary: Racial Dislocations
“Willa Cather and the Harlem Renaissance,” Zita Nunes

“Ambivalent Geographies: Race, Work, and the Potomac in Sapphira and the Slave Girl,” Christin Taylor

Chair: Joseph Urgo

3:15 p.m.
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and the Handley Library 
Enjoy a special Cather quilt presentation with museum curator, Nicholas Powers. Afterward, explore the museum, the library (a rich repository for Cather researchers), and enjoy an evening in Old Town and dinner on your own.

Shenandoah University vans will be in use to shuttle seminarians to the museum and back to campus. The last shuttle is expected to run at 9:00 p.m.

Friday, June 21, 2019

9:00 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

F15. Considering Creativity 
Panelists: Joshua Dolezal and Chris Wolak
Chair: Todd Richardson

F16. Tuning In to Linguistic Diversity 
Panelists: Francesca White and Andrew Wu
Chair: Joseph Murphy

10:15 a.m. Concurrent Sessions

F17. Hastily, Cather: Letters and Writing 
Panelists: Complete Letters editors, Gayle Rocz and Simone Droge, and Jane Elkin
Chair: Ann Romines

F18. Literary Trends and Techniques 
Panelists: Jace Gatzmeyer, Sonja Lynch and Robert Lynch
Chair: James Jaap

Noon Lunch

1:00 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

F19. Peripheries in The Professor’s House 
Panelists: William Gonch, Peter Mallios, and Jeannette Schollaert
Chair: Kimberly Vanderlaan

F20. Cather’s Lives 
Panelists: Timothy Bintrim, Laurie Weber, and Melissa Homestead
Chair: John Flannigan

3:00 p.m.
P5. Wild for Willa: Celebrating New and Forthcoming Critical and Creative Work 
Reading by Sue Hallgarth, author of On the Rocks and Death Comes, and brief presentations by authors of forthcoming Cather books.
Chair: Marilee Lindemann

Lemonade and cookies served

Seminar Banquet and Program

6:30 p.m. Hobnobbing 
Enjoy a glass of wine and lively conversation with your Cather colleagues before our evening program begins.

7:00 p.m.
“Black Voices and Black Silences in Sapphira and the Slave Girl” 
performed by Barbara Davis, singer

7:30 p.m. Dinner service

8:30 p.m. Bluegrass music by Patent Pending

Optional Activities

Saturday, June 22, 2019

9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Old Town Farmers’ Market, to with local musicians, on Old Town Pedestrian Mall

10:00 a.m.
Special services at historic Christ Episcopal Church, attended by Cather relatives and featured in Sapphira and the Slave Girl. Services conducted by the Rev. Charles Peek, Cather scholar.

Explore local sites and attractions on your own.

Be sure to pick up the excellent brochure of local attractions that will be included with your seminar packet!

Lodging, Travel, Parking, and Meals

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

Lodging On Campus (6 nights)

* Linens are provided; rooms are air conditioned.

University Inn – Shared/$255; Single/$325
Private bathrooms; conveniently located near the Allen Dining Hall.

Parker Hall – Shared/$225; Single/$275
4 double rooms per suite with private sinks, shared ensuite shower/bathroom. Convenient to free parking and Allen Dining Hall. First floor laundry facilities.

Racey Hall – Shared/$195; Single/$225
Racey Hall features traditional dorm-style rooms with 2 shared bathroom facilities and 2 shared shower facilities per floor. First floor has laundry facilities.

Off Campus Lodging

Because of a number of summer programs operating in the Winchester area during our visit, hotel rooms are EXTREMELY limited. Please book well in advance if pursuing off-campus housing.

Wingate by Wyndham – $118/night + taxes & fees
150 Wingate Drive, Winchester VA 22601

Courtyard by Marriott – $141/night + taxes & fees
300 Marriott Drive, Winchester VA 22603
800-627-7468 or online at 

Rooms will be released on May 16, but will fill up well in advance of that date! Don’t wait!

Other national hotel chains can be found in Stephens City, Middletown and Front Royal, Virginia, 8 to 15 miles from the campus on major highways.


$150 for 3 meals/day beginning the evening of June 16 through the morning of June 22 (excluding times when the event is scheduled to be off campus). Participants may also pay per meal on site with cash or card. Banquet is included with registration (below).


Conference-goers should plan to fly into Washington Dulles International Airport for closest access; there are no scheduled public shuttles from D.C. to Winchester; taxi cabs and ride sharing services are available.


Parking is free for conference participants.



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

Marilee Lindemann, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Ann Romines, Professor Emerita, George Washington University

Site Director: 
John Jacobs, Professor Emeritus, Shenandoah University

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

Call for Papers

Call for Papers
Call for Papers

The 17th International Willa Cather Seminar will be held in the lush, complex place of Cather’s Virginia birth and first nine years. When she was born here in 1873, Cather’s family had already been planted in Virginia since the 1730s. Here, as observant daughter of a white family, she first encountered differences and dislocations that remained lively, productive, and sometimes deeply troubling sites of tension and energy in her writings. In this Seminar, we do not intend to root conversation solely in this particular locale. Instead, we hope to un-root or unsettle it through attention to such differences and dislocations as they marked Cather’s life and work, beginning in her undergraduate stories and culminating in her late-life return to Virginia in her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl.

The Seminar will visit many sites in Winchester and the surrounding area that were important to Cather’s family, and other Virginians, as they experienced the persistence of slavery, the French and Indian War, the Revolution, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and we will be welcomed by the current owners to Willow Shade, Cather’s first childhood home. We will also spend a day in Washington D.C., with opportunities to visit the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture and other museums and sites relevant to Cather’s writing.

As always, the Seminar will welcome papers taking a broad array of approaches to Cather’s life and work. We especially invite fresh takes on the many forms of difference and the many moments of dislocation that her readers encounter. We aim to jumpstart a conversation that has been somewhat muted in Cather studies in recent years and to invite new voices and new perspectives into the discussion.

  • Differences of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, class, region, and nationality are everywhere in Cather’s cosmopolitan fictional world. How do they signify? How do they intersect? How are they navigated? What is at stake in the writer’s explorations of difference?
  • Cather’s characters are often on the move. Relocation tends to produce a sense of dislocation that may be destabilizing and disorienting. What are the social and psychic resonances of dislocation in Cather’s writing?
  • How has expanded access to Cather’s letters unsettled understandings of her life? How does hearing Cather’s unmediated epistolary voice (rather than the cautious, mediated voice of paraphrase) alter the sound or our sense of that voice?

Please send 500-word proposals of individual papers to the Willa Cather Foundation’s education director, Tracy Tucker, at, by February 20, 2019. If your paper is accepted, you will be notified by March 20, 2019. Papers should be 8-10 pages in length (20 minutes when read). The conference organizers also welcome proposals for roundtable panels and other formats; proposals for such alternate formats should be submitted no later than February 1, 2019. Graduate students will be welcomed to the Seminar and those whose proposals are accepted may apply for funding through the Willa Cather Foundation.

Graduate Student Seminar Grants

Graduate Student Seminar Grants
Graduate Student Seminar Grants
To apply for a travel grant from the Willa Cather Foundation, please fill out and return the application below by April 1. Funds are available to assist students who wish to attend the Willa Cather International Seminar, and we aim to bridge the gap between institutional and departmental support and actual travel costs to attend the full event. Preference is given to students who will be presenting seminar papers, who show demonstrated need, and whose attendance is central to their area of study. Grant recipients will be notified by April 15, 2019; funds will be disbursed at the conclusion of the seminar. We ask that recipients be present for the full seminar.