Willa Cather Spring Conference Offers FREE Events

The Willa Cather Foundation hosts their 61st annual Willa Cather Spring Conference, June 2–4, 2016. As the world remembers the sacrifices made during the Great War, the conference will explore the war’s impact not only on Willa Cather’s life and war-era writings but on those of her literary contemporaries, as well as the legacy of the war on American culture.

The public is invited to attend several events and exhibits that are offered free through the support of Humanities Nebraska, the Nebraska Arts Council, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

On Thursday, June 2, at 7:00 pm, Dr. Pearl James will deliver the keynote address, kicking off a weekend of lectures on the conference theme. James is the author of The New Death: American Modernism and World War I, which examines the work of Cather, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner in context of the war. She has published and presented extensively on World War I-era literature, modernism, and the visual culture of World War I, including as part of a series presented by the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.

On Friday, June 3, at 11:00 am there will be a book talk and signing by Karen Gettert Shoemaker, author of the 2016 “One Book One Nebraska” selection The Meaning of Names. Shoemaker will discuss family stories and historical research she used in her novel. A writer, teacher, and business owner from Lincoln, Nebraska, her fiction and poetry have appeared in the London Independent, Prairie Schooner, South Dakota Review, Fugue, Kalliope, The Nebraska Review, and have been anthologized in A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers.

On Saturday, June 4, at 10:00 am, The Passing Show, “Decades Since our Doughboy: One of Ours and the War Years,” will feature a discussion by Dan Clayton, Andrew Jewell, Max Despain, and Janis Stout; and will be moderated by Julie Olin-Ammentorp. This panel discussion will explore how One of Ours translates to today; what it means to belong; how the novel was received as a “war novel;” how One of Ours differs from Cather’s other novels and more.

An artists’ reception on Friday, June 3, at 4:30 pm, will honor regional artists Christi Lewis, Deb Kubik, Jeremy Daniels, Mary Vaughan, Gwen Lewis, Jane Marie, Patricia Scarborough, Jorn Olsen, Gregory Summers, Jenine Wilhelms, Susan Drey, David McCleery, Mike and Mary Dixon, Amy Springer, Linda Woodward, and Barb Kudrna for their participation in the exhibit, Summer Snow: A Celebration of Landscape. Summer Snow is inspired by Cather’s fiction, nonfiction, and interviews from roughly 1914-1919 demonstrate her interest in the landscape—both in Nebraska and in war torn Europe. The title of the exhibit comes from a 1921 interview, in which Cather describes the French “summer snow” celebration, held in the early summer as the silky tufts of cottonwood seeds drift down. “Unless you can see the beauty all around you everywhere, and enjoy it, you can never comprehend art,” Cather told the reporter. This exhibit celebrates those small details in the landscape around us and will remain on display until July 31.

On display throughout the conference is, Telling War Stories: The Rhetoric of the Great War, a curated exhibit featuring the objects and texts of the war era, including six paintings on loan from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Though the focus of the conference is the literature of Willa Cather and her contemporaries as it reflects the First World War, literature is only one response. “Telling War Stories” highlights other rhetorical tactics from the period—persuasive and inspirational words and images that affected not only Cather and other writers, but the reading public as a whole, the politicians who decided the course of the war, the soldiers themselves and their loved ones. This exhibit gives a historical framework that is accessible and visually interesting for all audiences, while addressing a larger question of the language of war and peace. The exhibit will be available for viewing until July 31.

Founded in 1955 and headquartered in Red Cloud, the Willa Cather Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather through education, historic preservation, and the arts. For more information, visit or call toll-free 866-731-7304.