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The country of her allegiance is far from the land of her inheritance, and for its past she feels an alien nostalgia which those ‘under forty’ can never know.It is in praise of this past that she has written this slender volume in reverence and love.Queer refers to both the specific sexuality of Cather; it is also used as a transitive verb to describe the writer’s interrogation and disruption of the broader culture, as in “Queering America.” It has a very specific literary-historical import when Lindemann says of “Tom Outland’s story” that it represents “Cather’s queering in the sense of critique and revision of the American classic as the tale of a free boy’s adventures” (103).
Along with Faulkner, Cather has become one of the most contested twentieth-century novelists.
Current debate lies in the intersection of ideology and feminism, with a specific focus on how “progressive” a writer Cather was.
Now God be praised for prejudice, for it is prejudice which makes predilections what they ought to be. But to talent, prejudice is a friendly guide, shaping it after its natural bent. She dislikes all that Walter Scott used to call the Big Bow-wows. She shuns the crowd, and the things the crowd care for. For her fastidious talent America has especial need.
Neither Miss Cather’s prejudices nor her predilections have undergone much change since she came out of the West.
There are slippages of meaning, moments when argumentative logic is lost, elided or blurred.
Lindemann is fond of oppositions wh ere the queer is said to resist or critique the straight; but the rhetorical force of these oppositions sometimes masks a lack of specificity.Lindemann is probably the first scholar to arrive at a way of “doing” Cather criticism that matches the author’s own proliferating and multiple discursiveness.The skein running through this critical quilt might be crudely summarized as follows: Cather, a lesbian, “queered” America by radically questioning and critiquing traditional modes of representation. In fact, as Lindemann applies it in a range of contexts, the word at times becomes bleached of meaning.She put away from her the proffered gift of an authentic Flaubert letter. She loves to live remotely, protecting herself from too common an admiration, and ever half afraid to draw near divinity lest she discover some touch of clay. The Fields legend went back past the demigods to the gods themselves, and as Miss Cather sat beside her hostess, reclining as ever on her sofa, the past became present, and the present had no being.It is the same oblique approach she makes to the New England tradition. From Nebraska to Charles Street, Miss Cather had come far, but it was her road home.Lindemman’s impressive s tudy entwines textual criticism with a theoretical discourse derived from cultural studies and nascent queer studies.One of the most important features of the book is its self-consciously decentered format, as Lindemann weaves together a range of critical discourses: close readings of Cather’s correspondence; neo-Foucauldian cultural history; deconstructions of canon formation and literary nationalism; and attentive textual criticism.Katherine Mansfield, she remarks, has ‘a powerful slightness.’ How excellent the phrase!When Miss Cather says that a second rate writer can be defined, but one first-rate can only be experienced, she codifies a law of universal criticism.She notes of Cather’s essay on Annie Fields that it represents a literary history encompassing “the gentility of nineteenth-century Boston and the ‘tumult’ of twentieth-century New York, the traditional and the ‘queer,’ the male-authored and the female-authored” (85).Here, the drive towards a series of oppositions creates unsupportable associations.