Ten Propositions Concerning Cather's Fiction cather.jpg (8108 bytes)

"In the Kingdom of art there is no God but one God, and his service is so exacting that there are few men born of women who are strong enough to take the vows."

"Art, it seems to me, should simplify. That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole—so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader's consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page. "

"Whatever is felt upon the page without being specifically named there--that, we may say, is created."

"There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

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I.  Cather's fiction is more concerned with memory as the possession of the past than the past per se.  Equally, it is more concerned with remembrance than immediacy.

II. Cather's fiction invokes cyclical motifs -- the seasons, departure and return, birth-growth-decline-death.  She recognizes the importance of a primitive, mythic sensibility that looks for mystery and beauty in life's most fundamental occurrences.

III. Emotional resonance is at the heart of her artistic product.  Her fiction is impressionistic in the best sense of the word; it builds its art around refined sensations and perceptions.  She prizes the sympathetic imagination.

IV. Cather's characters are deeply relational rather than self-dependent.  Family and friendship nourishes, while romance and lesser social ties disillusion.

V. The land is at the heart of the individual and the community.  She has an appreciation for the land in both its cultivated and uncultivated expressions.  Both are in some sense natural. 

VI. Spirituality cannot be divorced from physicality and still be considered healthy.  Art and religion order by arising out of the rituals and rhythms of life.  Our capacity for blessedness is yoked to these.

VII. She prizes simplicity of form and expression.  She is Virgilian in her impulses: well-crafted less is fictional more.

VIII. Life is deeply experiential, and human life is character in action. 

IX. For Cather, artists use symbols to tie together time and eternity. Her stories are meant to be both particular and universal.

X. Art has both a subjective, internal side that stresses honesty, feeling, emotion, and experience, and an objective, external side that stresses form, craft, and language.

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding