Willa Cather reads to Jack and Elsie Cather.
Willa Cather reads to her brother Jack and sister Elsie.

69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference

Cather and the Readerly Imagination
Spring Conference

Our 69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference will celebrate Willa Cather and reading. Cather herself was an avid reader as well as a writer; she enjoyed sharing her book recommendations with friends, and she was pleased by hearing the comments of her own readers. From an early age, she established her “library,” with her books labeled and sometimes numbered in the back room of her father’s office. As our conference explores the many facets of Cather’s interactions with both her books and her readers, we hope attendees will be inspired to examine their own relationship to Cather's life and work.

The conference will begin Thursday, June 6 and conclude the evening of Saturday, June 8. Details regarding programs, registration, and speakers are forthcoming. 

Call for Papers

Cather and the Readerly Imagination

In her own time as in ours, Willa Cather’s books created vibrant and varied communities of readers. Cather’s literary works detail numerous acts of reading, and she herself was an avid reader with an acute awareness of the reading public. The 69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference seeks to celebrate and explore both the act of reading Cather and the presence of reading and readers within Cather’s fiction and letters. 

The directors invite papers on a variety of topics related to Cather, readers, and reading, including but not limited to the following areas:

  • Representations of readers and reading in Cather’s novels and short stories.
  • How readers navigate challenging topics in Cather’s fiction.
  • Book clubs, both historical and contemporary, and their approaches to Cather.
  • Teaching and pedagogical approaches; digital reading and / or the use of archival materials and Cather Archive documents.
  • Reading Cather alongside banned or challenged books.
  • Diverse communities of readers: women; immigrants; LGBTQ+ readers; Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities; disability communities; religious communities.
  • Reading and affect: how emotions such as joy, grief, pleasure, and escape are evoked by or represented in Cather’s works.
  • Cather as a reader: the works and authors she read and their influence on her writing; her personal library; and her family’s library.
  • Reader responses: how physical copies of Cather’s work (illustrations, typography, dust jacket and book cover design) affect readers' reception; how audiobook features and narration shape how readers experience Cather's work.
  • Genre: reading Cather within and beyond specific genres, including poetry, regionalism, modernism, and the history of the novel. 
  • Reading Cather alongside her contemporaries.

Proposals of no more than 500 words should describe papers or presentations approximately twenty minutes long. Innovative formats are encouraged. Abstracts, along with a short bio, your contact information and institutional affiliation, should be submitted to Rachel Olsen, Director of Education and Engagement, via the 2024 Spring Conference Proposal Form by March 1, 2024.

Responses to proposals will be sent by mid-March. At this time we intend to offer an in-person conference but remain committed to offering digital programming to our audiences. Questions may be directed to Rachel Olsen or Sarah Clere and Kelsey Squire, Academic Advisors of the 2024 Spring Conference, at or