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17th International Willa Cather Seminar

17th International Willa Cather Seminar

Monday, June 17, 2019 to Friday, June 21, 2019
Shenandoah University
1460 University Drive
Winchester, VA 22601

17th International Willa Cather Seminar

“Unsettling Cather: Differences and Dislocations”

June 17–21, 2019 | Shenandoah University, Winchester, Virginia

Co-Directors: 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

Seminar Schedule and Highlights include:

Sunday, June 16

Afternoon check-in, dinner served for those dining on campus; Cather Trivia in the evening

Monday, June 17

Plenary session with Ann Romines, Matthew Clark Greer and Jonathan Noyalas; concurrent sessions; tour of local Cather sites, Willow Shade, Stonewall Confederate and National (Union) cemeteries, with a picnic supper at Capon Springs resort

Tuesday, June 18

Plenary session with Joseph Dimuro and Guy Reynolds; concurrent paper sessions; dinner with Cather family; keynote speaker Siobhan Somerville

Wednesday, June 19

A day on the Washington Mall and a chance to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Thursday, June 20

Plenary session with Zita Nunes and Christin Taylor; concurrent sessions; visit the Museum of Shenandoah Valley for Cather exhibit and quilt program

Friday, June 21

Plenary and concurrent sessions, followed by seminar banquet

Saturday, June 22

Farewell breakfast, optional activities

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.

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.

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.

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.



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