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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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67th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

67th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

Thursday, June 2, 2022 to Saturday, June 4, 2022
National Willa Cather Center
413 N. Webster St.
Red Cloud, NE 68970

In 2022, our annual Spring Conference will explore the landscape of literary prizes as we mark the publication centenary of Willa Cather’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel One of Ours. Our three-day conference, "Literary Prizes: Acclaim and Controversy," will examine the distinctly modern phenomenon of cultural prizes. Dr. James F. English, author of The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value, will give an invited lecture as we examine the impacts of the literary award industry on authors' lives and legacies, their books, and their readers. A scholarly symposium will be a part of the three-day schedule, with Dr. Melissa Homestead, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, serving as this year's Spring Conference academic director.

Invited Speaker, Dr. James English

Invited Speaker, Dr. James English
Invited Speaker, Dr. James English

We're happy to announce that Dr. James English, author of The Economy of Prestige, will join us for an invited lecture on cultural awards. English is John Welsch Centennial Professor of English and Founding Director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. His books also include Comic Transactions, the Concise Companion to Contemporary British Literature, and The Global Future of English Studies. His current projects include a book about ranking and rating systems in literature and the arts and an edited volume of essays on Literary Studies and Human Flourishing, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Call for Papers - Deadline February 15, 2022

Call for Papers - Deadline February 15, 2022
Call for Papers - Deadline February 15, 2022

In 1922, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., published Willa Cather’s fifth novel, One of Ours. Despite Cather’s attempts to head off negative responses, reviews of One of Ours were decidedly mixed, with key critics such as H.L. Mencken deriding it as marking a precipitous descent from Cather’s previous level of achievement as an artist. Nevertheless, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1923, and as a result Cather became, for the rest of her life and beyond, “the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Willa Cather.”

The Willa Cather Spring Conference theme in this centennial year of One of Ours, “Literary Prizes: Acclaim and Controversies,” engages this divided response to her novel, which is characteristic of prize culture more broadly rather than a departure from it.

Some possible topics keyed to the broader conference theme for those who wish to present as part of the Scholars Symposium include:

  • The critical reception of One of Ours in 1922 and later.
  • The marketing of One of Ours by Knopf and how the firm positioned it as a prize candidate.
  • The controversy over the award of the Pulitzer to Cather in 1923.
  • One of Ours in relation to other Pulitzer winners in the prize’s first decade.
  • One of Ours as novel of the region then known as the Middle West, including its relationship to Webster County people and places.
  • How the award shaped Cather’s future trajectory as an artist.
  • Other prizes, awards, and recognitions accorded to Cather, such as the Prix Femina and the Howells Medal.
  • How Cather’s status as a Pulitzer winner did shape and has continued to shape the marketing of her works.
  • Cather’s place today in critical discourse about value and prestige, including the place of Cather and her novels on various “best of” ranked lists.

Proposals focusing on teaching and pedagogy at all levels of instruction are welcome!

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should describe papers or presentations approximately twenty minutes long. Innovative formats are encouraged. Abstracts, along with your contact information and institutional affiliation, should be emailed to education coordinator Rachel Olsen at by February 15, 2022. Responses to proposals will be sent by mid-March. Questions may be sent to Dr. Melissa J. Homestead, Academic Director of the 2022 Spring Conference, at

Given the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are planning for all possible formats: in-person in Red Cloud, completely online, or a hybrid. Presenters should plan to present their paper or participate in discussions online should circumstances require it.