Willa Cather’s Bildungsroman: The Paradox of the Song of the Lark
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CitationSquizzato, Daniela. 2019. Willa Cather’s Bildungsroman: The Paradox of the Song of the Lark. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractFrom the time Willa Cather discovered her passion for writing and, up until the completion of her third novel, The Song of the Lark, the novelist was concerned with the idea of what a successful artist was. She embarked on this self-discovery both in practice and in fiction, creating her own artists in her early fiction and living vicariously through them. She believed her creative skill was not a God-given talent that was freely bequeathed, but instead required an investment and a passion that she needed to perfect. Cather’s attempt to reconcile her conflict of perfecting art can be traced to an investigation of her early writings, including her short stories and early novels, which contain autobiographical features. This, in turn, reveals her evolution as a writer.
Cather’s The Song of the Lark marks an important turning point for the author in her advancement as a novelist. As with her publication of Alexander’s Bridge, Cather’s early writing was in imitation of Henry James, but later found her voice in O Pioneers! in the style of minimalist writing. The Song of the Lark was her most personal and autobiographical novel, but also resulted to be her longest. Despite the voice she had acquired in O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark resembled maximalism rather than minimalism, placing the novel in a paradox: a work that told the achievement of an artist that, unfortunately, did not result in masterful taste. However, in her next novel, My Ántonia, she corrected course with her minimalist style to produce one of her most masterful works of prairie life, concluding the search and bringing peace to the topic of artist for Cather.
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