Willa Cather: Queering America

Columbia University Press, 1999

What can a reassessment of this contentious first lady of American letters add to an understanding of the gay identities that have emerged in America over the past century? Although it has been proven posthumously by scholars that Cather had lesbian relationships, she did not openly celebrate lesbian desires, and even today is sometimes described as homophobic and misogynistic. As Lindemann shows in this study of the novelist's life and work, Cather's sexual coming-of-age occurred at a time when a cultural transition was recasting love between women as sexual deviance rather than romantic friendship. At the same time, the very identity of "America" was characterized by great instability as the United States emerged as a modern industrial nation and imperial power.