Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Valerie Rohy

Second Advisor

Dona L. Brown


This thesis explores regionalism as a fictional genre and Willa Cather's experimentations and innovations in her 1918 novel My Ántonia. In it I argue that Cather employs what I will be calling reciprocal regionalism, which expands upon the regionalist relationship between the land and the characters in the story. In My Ántonia and later novels of Cather's, reciprocal regionalism functions in how characters survive, prosper, or perish in the region; the relationship needs to be fluid and adaptable.

Using regionalist criticism and close textual analysis of Willa Cather's novels, essays, and letters, I argue that Cather believes in an inherent essentialist relationship between the artist and the muse, the character, and the region. When the relationship falters and fails, the art and the character dies. Furthermore, Cather's commissioning of illustrations for the novel by W.T. Benda illustrate that the relationship between material and personal experience is foremost in truthful representation.

This thesis aims to fill a gap in Cather criticism that has so far neglected in studying Cather's fourth novel My Ántonia as a regionalist text, while also exploring how Cather served as an intermediary and experimenter in a rather traditional female written form by questioning its place in the literary canon and revising it as a modernist author.



Number of Pages

70 p.