Willa Carter biography
Date of birth : 1873-12-07
Date of death : 1947-04-24
Birthplace : Back Creek Valley, Virginia
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-08-19
Credited as : Fiction writer and drama critic, newspaper correspondent in Nebraska, won Pulitzer Prize for fiction from Columbia University of Journalism 1922
Willa Sibert Cather is among the most distinguished American women in early twentieth-century fiction. She wrote most of her major works between 1913 and the late 1920s, during an age that encompassed World War I and spanned massive social change and modernization. As related by Louis Auchincloss in Pioneers and Caretakers, Cather felt that the world had split in two after 1922 and that she "belonged to the earlier half." Her writings reflect a desire to withdraw from the modern world into the refuge of a stable past.
Critics have compared Cather's balanced, carefully crafted, and evocative prose style to that of other writers, including mentor Sarah Orne Jewett, American novelist Henry James, and French naturalist Gustave Flaubert. Cather strove to preserve the past through her works, depicting the harsh life of pioneering immigrant farmers who settled the prairies of the western United States in such novels as O Pioneers! and My Antonia. Several other novels and the bulk of her short fiction explore another recurring theme--the complexities of the artistic temperament: Cather often portrayed artists in conflict, wrestling between the sophisticated allure of the East and the freedom and earthy simplicity of the West. According to Frederick J. Hoffman in The Modern Novel in America, "The creative artist is in closest sympathy with what Miss Cather regards as the complete life."
Cather's writings are based largely on her early childhood experiences. Born in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, she moved with her family to Red Cloud, Nebraska, a market town among the state's vast prairie lands, when she was nine years old. Cather grew up among European-born ranchers and farmers. She recognized the harshness of the immigrants' life-style and witnessed the development of their children into an imaginative new generation of Americans with dreams of a life rich in the arts: she would eventually incorporate into her fiction both the stoicism and the ambitions of the body of people with whom she matured.
After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1895, Cather moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she worked as a journalist, editor, and teacher. In 1906 she accepted a position as editor of McClure's magazine in New York City. Having spent more than a decade nurturing her literary aspirations in her spare time, Cather realized by 1911 that she needed to devote more of her time and energy to writing in order to reach her creative potential. That year, at the urging of her friend Jewett, she resigned her post at McClure's, forsaking journalism for a career as a full-time writer.
While Cather is known primarily for her novels, her first published work was a volume of poetry titled April Twilights. The 1903 collection prefigures the themes of human struggle, unrealized potential, the search for self, and a retreat to the past that would color the author's later fiction, but many critics have agreed that Cather's sentiments are not best expressed in verse. Calling her "one of the few authentic voices among the prose writers of today," Eunice Tietjens, writing in Poetry, judged, "Miss Cather is not at heart a poet."
Cather's second publication, a collection of short fiction titled The Troll Garden, appeared in 1903. The volume's stories are written in tightly woven, lyrical prose, foreshadowing the graceful and economic style that would become the author's trademark. Each story in The Troll Garden features an artist or a character of artistic temperament, and several of the selections are set against the backdrop of a raw prairie. In "The Sculptor's Funeral," an artist's body is brought back to his home on the prairie for burial; yet, even after his death, the village natives fail to appreciate the man's artistic sensibilities. Another story, "The Wagner Matinee," centers on a young man's impressions of his Aunt Georgina, a woman who has led a somber and stifled existence on the plains. Upon attending a concert featuring the music of German composer Richard Wagner, Georgina undergoes a renewal, obtaining from her experience of the music a more enlightened sense of herself. These stories, and others like them, support Hoffman's claim that Cather's "strongest and most bitter criticism of the prairie culture was that it could not understand or abide the artistic soul."
Cather elaborated on the theme of unfulfilled ambitions in the most successful of The Troll Garden stories, "Paul's Case." This time, however, the main character is not in conflict with prairie life; rather, Paul, a young dreamer, feels smothered by the static, working-class existence in Pittsburgh. He is drawn to the glamour, excitement, and sophistication of New York. After stealing money from his employer, he travels to the city, takes a room at the Waldorf, and outfits himself with all the amenities of the New York elite. When the money is spent, Paul abandons hope of a brighter future and kills himself. Analyzing the story in Willa Cather: A Critical Biography, E. K. Brown asserted, "In the end Paul ... can't go home again; he has burned his bridges and has no wish to rebuild them." "Paul's Case" is generally regarded as the most striking pronouncement of Cather's belief in the power of the human imagination. The character's impatience, spiritual nihilism, and ultimate despair render him unable to triumph over what Cather portrays as the merely physical constraints of his milieu.
Cather's first novel, Alexander's Bridge, was not a critical success. Originally composed while Cather was still an editor at McClure's but not published until 1912, the slim book tells of bridge builder Bartley Alexander, a married man in love with a London actress. After deciding to leave his wife for his other love, Alexander is called to inspect a bridge being constructed over the St. Lawrence River. Like Alexander's character, the bridge is flawed; it falls during the inspection, carrying the man to his death. Though critics conceded that it was well constructed, Alexander's Bridge was faulted for its overly contrived plot. David Daiches, writing in Willa Cather: A Critical Introduction, deemed the work "a mere literary exercise," arguing that in spite of its Jamesian precision and excellent descriptive passages, the novel "nevertheless fails in that the central emotional situations are never fully realized."
Cather expressed little satisfaction with Alexander's Bridge and reportedly regarded her next work of fiction, O Pioneers!, as her first fully realized novel. The product of two of Cather's earlier short works, O Pioneers! focuses on Alexandra Bergson, the strong and determined daughter of a Swedish immigrant. Left to carry on her father's struggle against the harsh prairie lands of the West, the industrious Alexandra fights to keep her family together and sacrifices her youth and beauty to a lifetime of hard labor. While the story ends with Alexandra's eventual success and happiness in her later years with a man worthy of her love, a majority of critics have suggested that the novel gains most of its emotional thrust from a narrative digression involving duplicitous lovers. In this episode Alexandra's youngest brother, Emil, falls in love with Marie Shabata, wife of a gruff and burly Bohemian neighbor. Marie and Emil rendezvous in an orchard; when her husband discovers them together, he kills them both. In a Bookman review of O Pioneers!, Frederic Taber Cooper called the murder of the lovers "perfect as it is by itself." David Stouck, writing in Prairie Schooner, defended Cather's inclusion of the love triangle in the story, stating that "in terms of the novel's epic theme--and it is the epic note which prevails at the end--the death of the lovers is necessary to give Alexandra's story a tragic depth and to allow her old antagonist, nature, to reassert its power.... Their death gives Alexandra's life a tragic quality because they represent essentially everything for which she has lived and fought."
Cather's next novel, The Song of the Lark, established several stylistic and thematic trends that would dominate her later works. The story turns on Thea Kronborg's rise to fame in the operatic world. The daughter of a Swedish preacher, young and vibrant Thea lives with her family in the small and uninspired town of Moonstone, Colorado. Her affinity for music and fascination with the world of art lead her to study music in Chicago. Following rigorous training in the city, the aspiring soprano retreats to the Southwest for a summer to reflect on the course of her life. Surrounded by the timeless, serene desert--a rich repository of native American artifacts--Thea contemplates the meaning of art. While bathing in a stream below an ancient cliff dwelling, she finds a piece of broken Indian pottery and, in studying it, derives a view of art in general: "The stream and the broken pottery: what was art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself?"
The novel ends with Thea's triumph as an opera star. According to Auchincloss, Cather felt in retrospect that The Song of the Lark "should have ended with Thea Kronborg's first surmountal of her difficulties, that having escaped to Chicago from the stultification of Moonstone, where a concert or operatic career was inconceivable ... she should have been left, one foot firmly set on the first rung of her long ladder." Most critics have agreed that the second half of the novel lacks the power of the first. New Republic contributor Lawrence Olson echoed the conclusions of several reviewers when he wrote: "Instead of embracing and exploring the fractured consciousness of modern man and reassembling it in a new creative reality ... [Cather] took refuge in the attractive but unsupported idea that youth is finer than age, or that art is finer than life."
Many critics reviewing The Song of the Lark claimed that Thea's personality and emotions are subordinated to her ambitions. Perhaps the most succinct criticism of the character's development came from Auchincloss, who judged that Thea "is too much an artist, too little a woman." In Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice, Sharon O'Brien speculated that Cather--a quintessential tomboy in her youth--lacked an innate sense of her "female self" and, therefore, had difficulty portraying women in her fiction. Criticism of Cather's later novels focused not only on the author's perceived failure to create multidimensional female characters, but further suggested that Cather was unable to represent true dramatic relationships in her work. Clifton Fadiman, writing in Nation, explained that "Cather's conception of passion is broad. It includes passion for one's work, one's children, one's friends, one's land, one's memories, and for beautiful objects and experiences. But it does not extend, except formally, to sex."
My Antonia, Cather's 1918 novel, is widely regarded among the author's finest works. Reminiscent of the earlier prairie novel O Pioneers!, My Antonia tells the story of Bohemian immigrant farm girl Antonia Shimerda, a heroic character who has become a literary archetype for the Earth Mother. Narrator Jim Burden, neighbor to the Shimerdas, grows up with Antonia and chronicles her family's struggles to establish themselves on the Nebraska plains. The two characters share a love of the heart which is never expressed physically. Jim goes away to college and studies the classics; Antonia becomes involved with a railroad worker who impregnates and abandons her. The heroine has her baby and eventually finds happiness with a Czechoslovakian farmer named Cuzak. Years later, Jim--now a lawyer in the East--returns to Nebraska to find Antonia physically aged and weary, but exultant in her happy marriage and her many children. In an article for Literary Review, T. K. Whipple declared that Antonia's ultimate contentment proves Cather's "world is tragic ... but not futile."
In My Antonia, Cather once again expresses an almost obsessive longing for the past, this time through the character of Antonia's father. Homesick for his native land, Mr. Shimerda despairs and shoots himself. While several critics found Cather's recurring preoccupation with the past destructive, Whipple recognized an element of passion in the theme: "To have cared intensely about anything," the critic concluded, "is not to have lived in vain."
For the four years between 1918 and 1922, Cather published only two works, a volume of short stories titled Youth and the Bright Medusa and a novel, One of Ours. The Youth and the Bright Medusa collection, published in 1920, borrowed largely from stories previously printed in The Troll Garden, but also contained several newly anthologized selections, including the critically acclaimed "Coming, Aphrodite!" Four years after the release of My Antonia, Cather finally completed her fifth novel, One of Ours, in 1922. The central character, Claude Wheeler, is a virtuous youth who lives in an increasingly materialistic and prosperous Nebraska. Disillusioned by the deteriorating values of his family, he enlists in the armed forces and dies in battle during World War I. Reviewers felt that Cather's treatment of the Nebraska scenes approached the quality of her best work, but they also alleged that Cather oversimplified the war. Granville Hicks, writing in English Journal, called Cather's conception of World War I "romantic and naive," and added, "For Miss Cather, as for Claude, the war provides an escape from apparently insoluble problems." Despite such criticism, One of Ours earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1922.
Cather's next novel, A Lost Lady, garnered greater praise. Published in 1923, A Lost Lady chronicles the death of an era. Following an accident that leaves her once-powerful husband, Captain Forrester, an invalid, Marian Forrester begins a gradual process of moral degeneration. She longs for a life of culture, wealth, and sophistication, an existence which seems unattainable in the face of her husband's condition. Instead of turning her back on the petty bourgeois world of the present, Marian succumbs to its demands, taking refuge in the false comforts of alcohol and sexual abandon. She becomes what Hicks termed "the product of changed times" and a "symbol of the corruption that had overtaken the age."
According to John H. Randall III in The Landscape and the Looking Glass, "The deterioration of Mrs. Forrester's character ... reflects the social disintegration brought about the rising tides of commerce" in post-World War I America. The character is lost "between the pioneer and commercial generations," the critic continued, "unable to act according to the values she holds." Deeming A Lost Lady "Cather's most explicit treatment of the passing of the old order" and "the central work of her career," Lionel Trilling, writing in After the Genteel Tradition, suggested: "Miss Cather shares the American belief in the tonic moral quality of the pioneer's life; with the passing of the frontier she conceives that a great source of fortitude has been lost."
Perhaps the most powerful expression of Cather's disillusionment with the modern world is her 1925 novel The Professor's House. Having earned a prestigious literary prize for his multi-volume history of the Spanish in North America, Professor Godfrey St. Peter finds himself weary and uninspired. The completion of the enormous composition leaves him without a focal point for his creative energies. St. Peter's wife sets out to furnish an ostentatious new house with the professor's prize money. Reflecting on the materialistic nature of his family and society at large, St. Peter begins to reminisce about a former student, Tom Outland, who had died in the war. At this point in the story, the narrative breaks to accommodate an account of young Tom's pursuits prior to enrolling at the professor's college, including his discovery of prehistoric cliff dwellings in Colorado and his unsuccessful efforts to secure their preservation. The story then returns to St. Peter, who emerges from a near death experience with a new resolve to go on living.
New Statesman contributor Paul Binding considered The Professor's House "one of the 20th century's fictional masterpieces." Alfred Kazin, writing in On Native Grounds, agreed, declaring the novel "the most persistently underrated" of Cather's works. He further stated: "The story of Godfrey St. Peter is at once the barest and the most elaborately symbolic version of the story of heroic failure [Cather] told.... For St. Peter is at once the archetype of all her characters and the embodiment of her own beliefs."
Cather followed The Professor's House with her most inflammatory fiction, My Mortal Enemy, about a selfish, embittered, old woman who--looking back on a life lacking monetary prosperity--mourns the day she married for love. The author's next novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, emphasizes the very contentment and tranquillity that was missing in My Mortal Enemy. Set in mid-nineteenth-century New Mexico, the episodic story is a fictionalization of the life and achievements of Archbishop Lamy, the territory's first appointed bishop. The novel spans more than four decades in the lives of the archbishop and his vicar, "men of a singular nobility of mind and radiance of personality," commented Binding. The critic proceeded to note an "absence of ambiguity" in the world of the novel: its characters "move through a wild, undisciplined land and lo! the bad are immediately seen in their badness, the good are rewarded, and the middling feel better for contact with such sanctity."
Several critics decried the lack of conflict in Death Comes for the Archbishop, implying that Cather's inability to reconcile herself to the modern world forced her to create a haven of beauty and idealism in the past. Kazin asserted that in the novel, the author's characters "no longer had to submit to failure; they lived in a charming and almost antediluvian world of their own. They had withdrawn, as Willa Cather ... withdrew." Daiches concurred, arguing that "this lively creation of a golden world in which all ideals are realized is ... fundamentally a `softer' piece of writing than, say, My Antonia with its frustrations counterbalancing successes, or than The Professor's House, whose main note is of heroic failure." Despite such criticism, Death Comes for the Archbishop earned substantial acclaim for its evocations of the Southwest, and it remains one of Cather's most widely read works.
Shadows on the Rock, published in 1932, marks a further retreat into the past, this time to late-seventeenth-century Quebec. Focusing on one year in the lives of a widowed apothecary and his twelve-year-old daughter, the novel is regarded less for its dramatic action than for its lush descriptive passages and depiction of life along the St. Lawrence River. The book was written at a particularly difficult period in the author's life, following her father's death and the grave illness of her mother. Critics have suggested that Cather--craving stability during trying times--set Shadows on the Rock in Quebec because of the city's consistent resistance to change.
Cather's 1932 short story collection Obscure Destinies enunciates familiar themes of tradition and retrospection through three stories set in the Midwest. The most famous of these, a selection titled "Old Mrs. Harris," concerns three generations of women in Nebraska. Cather based the characters on her experiences in Red Cloud living with her mother and grandmother. Absorbed in their own lives, the two younger women fail to appreciate Mrs. Harris until after her death. Cather's portrait of isolation and aging was widely praised and, together with "Paul's Case," ranks with her best short fiction.
In 1935 Cather published another novel, Lucy Gayheart, which turns on the relationship between young pianist Lucy Gayheart and married baritone Clement Sebastian. Lucy and Clement fall in love, but, following a European summer concert tour, Clement accidentally drowns. After months of remorse and mourning, Lucy vows to resume her career in music; then, while skating on an ice-covered river, she falls through and drowns as well. In an article for Prairie Schooner, Paul Comeau theorized that in writing Lucy Gayheart, Cather was "not seeking to define the artistic process as she had done previously" but was "reflecting on that process in the distinctly philosophical context of life, death, and immortality." Comeau continued, "The primary concern then is not to establish the continuing vitality of Lucy Gayheart ... but to preserve and reflect on her memory."
Although Lucy Gayheart sold well, many critics faulted its predictability and oversentimentality. Trilling voiced the opinions of several reviewers, stating that the novel's "characters are unattached to anything save their dreams." Geismar, however, credited Cather with creating "the most complete love relationship" ever to appear in her writings.
Cather's final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, was published in 1940. Based on an actual event, the story recounts a young girl's arduous life as a slave during the Civil War. Touching on issues of miscegenation, sexual exploitation, jealousy, and racism, the novel earned praise as a provocative, accomplished work.
In an essay from the 1936 collection Not Under Forty titled "The Novel Demeuble," Cather called her approach to the novel "unfurnished": "Out of the teeming, gleaming, stream of the present," she wrote, a novel "must select the eternal material of art." Commenting on the author's lifelong literary achievements, Daiches concluded: "She belongs to no school.... The heroic nostalgia that pursued her until the end first changed her from a minor imitator of James to a novelist of fierce originality and individuality, and from the moment she discovered herself with O Pioneers! she went her own way with remarkably little notice of her contemporaries. She developed a style both strong and supple, combining forthrightness with sensitivity: she was one of the least showy novelists of her time." Cather died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 24, 1947, in her New York City apartment.
Given name originally Wilella; born December 7, 1873, in Back Creek Valley, VA; died of a cerebral hemorrhage, April 24, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of Charles F. (a rancher and insurance salesman) and Mary Virginia (Boak) Cather. Education: University of Nebraska, A.B., 1895. Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Pulitzer Prize for fiction from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1922, for One of Ours; Howells Medal from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1930, for Death Comes for the Archbishop; Prix Femina Americaine, 1932, for distinguished literary accomplishment; Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1944; honorary degrees from University of Nebraska, University of Michigan, University of California, and Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Creighton universities.
Newspaper correspondent in Nebraska, c. 1890-1895; Daily Leader, Pittsburgh, PA, telegraph editor and drama critic, 1897-1901; traveled in Europe, 1902; Allegheny High School, Pittsburgh, teacher of English and Latin and head of English department, 1902- 1905; McClure's, New York, NY, managing editor, 1906- 1911; full-time writer, 1911-1947.
POETRY AND PROSE, UNDER NAME WILLA CATHER, EXCEPT AS NOTED
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) April Twilights (poems), Badger, 1903, revised edition published under name Willa Cather, edited by Bernice Slote, University of Nebraska Press, 1968.
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) The Troll Garden (short stories), McClure, Philips, 1905, reprinted with an afterword by Katherine Anne Porter, New American Library, 1961, definitive edition published under name Willa Cather, edited with introduction and notes by James Woodress, University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) Alexander's Bridge, Houghton, 1912, published as Alexander's Bridges, Heinemann, 1912, revised edition with preface, Houghton, 1922, reprinted under name Willa Cather with introduction by Sharon O'Brien, New American Library, 1988, reprinted with introduction, edited by Marilee Lindemann, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) O Pioneers!, Houghton, 1913, reprinted under name Willa Cather, Thorndike, 1986, new edition edited by Susan J. Rosowski, Charles W. Mignon, with Kathleen Danker, historical essay by David Stouck, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1997.
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) The Song of the Lark, Houghton, 1915, reprinted under name Willa Cather, with a new preface by Cather, J. Cape, 1936, revised edition, with introduction by A. S. Byatt, Virago, 1982, reprinted with foreword by Doris Grumbach, Houghton, 1988, reprinted with introduction, notes, edited by Janet Sharistanian, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
* (Under name Willa Sibert Cather) My Antonia, illustrations by W. T. Bends, Houghton, 1918, reprinted with introduction by Walter Havighurst, 1949, reprinted, Thorndike, 1986.
* Youth and the Bright Medusa (short stories), Knopf, 1920.
* One of Ours, Knopf, 1922, reprinted with introduction by Stanley T. Williams, 1926.
* A Lost Lady, Knopf, 1923, reprinted, 1969, reprinted with historical essay by Susan J. Rosowski, with Kari A. Ronning, notes by Kari A. Ronning, textual editing by Charles W. Mignon, Frederick M. Link, with Kari A. Ronning, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1997.
* The Professor's House, Knopf, 1925, reprinted with introduction by A. S. Byatt, Virago, 1981.
* My Mortal Enemy, Knopf, 1926, reprinted with introduction by Byatt, Virago, 1982.
* Death Comes for the Archbishop, Knopf, 1927, reprinted with illustrations by Harold Von Schmidt, 1929, reprinted with introduction by Byatt, Virago, 1981, reprinted with historical essay, notes by John J. Murphy, editing by Charles W. Mignon with Frederick M. Link, Kari A. Ronning, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1999.
* Shadows on the Rock, Knopf, 1931, reprinted with introduction by Byatt, Virago, 1984.
* Obscure Destinies (short stories), Knopf, 1932, reprinted with historical essay by Kari A. Ronning, notes by Kari A. Ronning, textual essay by Frederick M. Link with Kari A. Ronning, Mark Kamrath, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1998.
* Lucy Gayheart, Knopf, 1935.
* Not Under Forty (essays and criticism), Knopf, 1936.
* Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Knopf, 1940, reprinted, Vintage Books, 1975.
* The Old Beauty and Others (short stories), Knopf, 1948.
* The Enchanted Bluff, Modern Library (New York, NY), 1996.
COLLECTIONS, UNDER NAME WILLA CATHER
* April Twilights and Other Poems, Knopf, 1923, enlarged, 1933, revised edition edited by Slote, University of Nebraska Press, 1962.
* The Novels and Stories of Willa Cather, thirteen volumes, Houghton, 1937-1941.
* Writings From Willa Cather's Campus Years, edited by James R. Shively, University of Nebraska Press, 1950.
* Five Stories (includes article by George N. Kates), Vintage Books, 1956.
* Early Stories of Willa Cather, edited by Mildred R. Bennett, Dodd, 1957, reprinted, 1983.
* Willa Cather's Collected Short Fiction, 1892-1912, edited by Virginia Faulkner, University of Nebraska Press, 1965, revised, 1970.
* The Kingdom of Art: Willa Cather's First Principles and Critical Statements, 1893-1896, edited by Slote, University of Nebraska Press, 1966.
* The World and the Parish: Willa Cather's Articles and Reviews, 1893-1902, two volumes, edited by William M. Curtin, University of Nebraska Press, 1970.
* Uncle Valentine and Other Stories, edited by Slote, University of Nebraska Press, 1973.
* Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters, selected and edited by L. Brent Bohlke, University of Nebraska Press, 1986.
* Willa Cather: Twenty-four Stories, selected with introduction by O'Brien, New American Library, 1987.
* The Short Stories of Willa Cather, edited by Hermione Lee, Virago, 1989.
* My Antonia; The Troll Garden; Selected Short Stories, Gramercy Books (New York, NY), 1994.
* Paul's Case and Other Stories, Dover (New York City), 1996.
* Coming, Aphrodite! And Other Stories, edited, notes by Margaret Anne O'Connor, introduction by Cynthia Griffin Wolff, Penguin (New York, NY), 1999.
* Willa Cather Reader, Courage (Philadelphia, PA), 1997.
OTHER, UNDER NAME WILLA CATHER
* (Editor) The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy, and the History of Christian Science, Doubleday, 1909.
* (Editor and author of introduction) The Best Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, two volumes, Houghton, 1925.
* Willa Cather on Writing, Knopf, 1949, reprinted with foreword by Stephen Tennant, University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
* Willa Cather in Europe: Her Own Story of the First Journey, edited with introduction and incidental notes by Kates, Knopf, 1956.
Also author, with Dorothy Canfield, of "The Fear That Walks by Noonday." Contributor of short stories, criticism, and articles toHome Monthly, Ladies' Home Journal, Nebraska Literary Magazine, Nebraska State Journal, Saturday Evening Post, and Smart Set.
O Pioneers! was adapted for the stage by Darrah Cloud and produced in Boston, Massachusetts, at the Huntington Theater Company, January, 1990. My Antonia: A Play for the Stage was published by Charles Jones, S. French (New York, NY), 1994.