Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Willa Cather's Response to Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin wrote two novels and hundreds of short stories. Her short stories were well written and became very popular through well known magazines such as Vogue. She mostly wrote about sensitive and intelligent women. She was surrounded by many women living with her through her whole life. Her first novel At Fault was not a huge hit with the public and was not noticed. Kate’s second novel however The Awakening was not well liked at all. It got alot of attention because of how different it was. Many critics brought it down and said it was horrible and very disagreeable. For awhile it is said that the book was banned from libraries, schools, and book stores in Kate's home town.

Willa Cather was becoming a well known female author at this time. She wrote many critical pieces also. Cather had many things about Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening. I found an interesting essay that Cather wrote in response to Kate Chopin’s book. She had many negative things to say about the novel. Cather had published O Pioneers in 1913 as a response to The Awakening. This novel that Willa wrote had many similarities to The Awakening. In both books the social female status was pushed to a different acceptance. Also each story shows women who want to be independent and have a well rounded life but fail at doing so. Cather was just so struck by how Chopin's story was written. It was such a new idea and way of writing especially for a woman. She strongly disagreed with it and thought it was wrong.

“Cather accuses Chopin's Edna of belonging to a "forever clamoring" class of women "that demands more romance out of life than God put into it," and asserts the hope that "next time...Miss Chopin will devote that flexible iridescent style of hers to a better cause"

This was some of what Cather had said about Chopin’s book. She states that Chopin could use some of her intelligence to write something better. She believed that Chopin was a very intellignet woman, but didn't use her intelligence to the best of her abilities. In another essay that I read written by Cather she states "A Creole "Bovary" is this little novel of Miss Chopin's". This is what she called Chopin's novel. Cather said that she had a good style of writing even though it was simple, but had wasted it on this novel. This meaning that Cather believed that Kate could have possibly done a better job writing on a differnt topic or choosing a different theme because this one did not go well for her in Cather's opinion.

"She writes much better than it is ever given to most people to write, and hers is a genuinely literary style; of no great elegance or solidity; but light, flexible, subtle and capable of producing telling effects directly and simply. The story she has to tell in the present instance is new neither in matter nor treatment".

"And next time I hope that Miss Chopin will devote that flexible, iridescent style of hers to a better cause."

After Kate Chopin's death in 1901 her novels were forgotten but her short stoires were to become even more popular. After the horrible reviews on The Awakening that was her last novel that Kate wrote. I think that Kate Chopin was a very intelligent woman who just put her feminine thoughts into her stories through her characters. She fought for her views on feminism and was a great author. Her ideas were extremely different to her society which is why they were not liked. Today her novel The Awakening is very popular and well liked by many readers.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Will Cather by Emily Zobal

Willa Cather: View on Walt Whitman and Women

Willa Cather was born on December 7th, 1873 in Back Creek Virginia. Cather’s childhood had a lasting impression on her that was very influential on her writing. When Willa Cather was nine years old, her family moved to Catherton, Nebraska and began a new life there and eventually settled in Red Cloud, Nebraska. When Willa first moved there she was not too keen on the vastness of Nebraska’s land. As time went on, the land began to grow on her and became a very influential aspect to her and became influential in her writing.

Willa Cather wrote many essays about other writer’s works. Just to name a few of the familiar authors, they were; Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, William Deans Howells, Mark Twain and many more.

My favorite essay that I read that Willa Cather wrote was about the one, the only; Walt Whitman.

One of the greatest American poets and writers is considered to be Walt Whitman. Willa Cather had some opinions of her own about Mr. Whitman. In an essay that Cather wrote about Walt Whitman she made references that he had “no literary ethics” and that “He was a poet without an exclusive sense of the poetic, a man without the finer discriminations.” She didn’t call Whitman a good poet, but she also didn’t necessarily call him a bad poet. This is where Willa Cather is coming from:

As the essay went on, Cather began to go on about how nothing delighted this man more than nature did. His passion for nature shines through in his writing. Cather expressed that “He accepted the world just as it is and glorified it.” I don’t think this is a bad thing, in fact, I think this is one of the greatest qualities about Whitman. I don’t think that Cather meant this statement to be a bad thing either, she admires that quality in Whitman. It is truly a gift to be able to accept things what they truly are.

Although Cather may lead on the that she has her doubts about Whitman at first by saying that he was neither good nor bad writer, she continues in her essay to say that that there in uncanny primitive element force about him, “Whitman’s poems are reckless rhapsodies over creation in general sometime sublime, some times ridiculous.” In my opinion, something ridiculous equal pure beauty, perhaps even pure genius. Cather recognized that Walt Whitman saw the beauty in nature and accepted the world for exactly the way it was.

“And yet there is an undeniable charm about this optimistic vagabound who is made so happy by the warm sunshine and the smell of spring fields. A sort of good fellowship and whole- heartedness in every line he wrote. "

A quote that I really appreciated made by Walt Whitman and made me able to grasp what Willa Cather was trying to express in her essay was this:

“I think I could turn and live with the animals. They are so placid and self-contained, I stand and look at them long and long. They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one is dissatisfied not nor one is demented with the mainia of many things. Not one kneels to another nor to his hand that lived in thousands of years ago. Not one is respectable or unhappy, over the whole earth.”
-Walt Whitman

Willa Cather’s essay about Walt Whitman to me was about the originality of this American writer, and how he is able to capture the beauty in nature and the world.
I’ve really begun to admire Willa Cather as not only a writer but also as a person. She always stands up for what she believes is right and it didn’t matter to if she was “going against the grain.” The fact that she was able to give her true opinion about Walt Whitman even though he was beloved American writer by most, is something to admire. Something else that I find very admirable in Willa Cather is her defiance of the social norm of women of her time.
Willa Cather never let the fact that she was a woman hold her back from anything, and I mean anything. She was one of the first women to graduate from college university that wasn’t just specifically for women. I think anybody can agree that graduating college even in this day in age is quite the accomplishment, the fact that she did it in 1894.

“The fact that I was a girl never damaged my ambitions to be a pope or an emperor.”
-Willa Cather

I think Willa Cather had her sense of a strong willed woman show through in the characters in her book. For example, the book that we’re familiar with, My Antonia, has a very commendable woman character. √Āntonia Shimerda, an intelligent woman, makes a major move from Nebraska to Bohemian and although she is faced with an large change in her life she still remains optimistic while still grieving the loss of her father. Instead of letting this life change and grief defeat her, she comes out on top. The strength this woman has throughout the novel is undeniable.
Willa Cather is a woman to be looked up to and respected. She was a woman with great ambition and never let anything hold her back, whether it be her opinion or her gender.

Appreciate Quotes? Check these out!
As I was looking up information about Willa Cather, I stumbled upon a collection of her quotes. Seeing that I am huge quote fanatic, I really took a liking to these particular quotes by her.

“The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how
difficult it is.”

“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

“Desire is creation, is the magical element in that process. If there were an instrument by which to measure desire, one could foretell achievement.”

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Willa Cather: Her Background, Advice and Views of Other Writers

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”
-Willa Cather-

Willa Cather was born in Back Creek, Virgina on December 7, 1873. Her family later moved to Catherton, Nebraska in 1883 and moved again to Red Cloud, Nebraska the year after. Life on the prairie had left a huge impression on Willa, the land and people surrounding her were the moments Cather would reminisce about when writing her novels. Generating a thriving infatuation for land that would later prove to be one of Cather's main focus points when writing. Nebraska by the 1890's had an immigrant population that made up 43% of the states population. Becoming involved in a variety of customs and foreign languages, we can see how much of an impact her childhood had on her passion for writing.

I found a very interesting essay where Cather talks about some of the barriers young writers face. The main point being quality not quantity. It's not how much you write or how many pieces you complete, it's all about writing that one piece of art that captures the minds of readers. Something bold and refreshing, unique and daring. Jumping outside the box and bringing the reader into a whole new world of words, settings, characters and scenarios. Having your book, your artwork speak for itself. Finding that one moment, stripping it down to its bare essential and letting it shine.
“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.”
The more I read about Willa the more I like her! She isn't an author, she's an artist. She paints such vivid pictures in the minds of readers, her descriptions of settings are absolutely beautiful. I think dunkirk (as a whole) is a pretty unappealing town, but I could read a whole novel about it if she had ever written one. In “My Antonia”, I feel like I'm there running through the wine colored grass while feeling the warmth from the sun in the bright blue sky.
“Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand-a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods-or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values.”

I found a bunch of essays Willa wrote on other writers, ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to William Dean Howells. I chose two who we had already read about in class (seemed more interesting and relevant that way).
This is by far my most favorite essay that I've seen written by Cather. Remember way back in the beginning of the semester when we read Mark Twain's “Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses”? Well I don't know about you but I thought it was a little over the top. I understand criticism and judging other pieces of work, but to me he came off as a know it all. He was a bully, ripping apart every section, every sentence of Cooper's story. It was an imaginative tale and Twain despised it. Thoroughly trashing Cooper's work and his overall style as a writer. Destroying it all. So when I read what Cather had to say about Twain's critique on Paul Bourget's book “Outre Mer”, it put the biggest grin on my face.
“Clemens did not like the book, and like all men of his class, and limited mentality, he cannot criticize without becoming personal and insulting.”
I obviously haven't read this book, but judging based on how he came off in Cooper's critique I'd say she hit the nail right on the head. He was degrading, rude, and went above and beyond to ruin their reputation's as writers. Her essay gets even better..
“He tried to demolish a serious and well considered work by publishing a scurrilous, slangy and loosely written article about it. In this article Mr. Clemens proves very little against Mr. Bourget and a very great deal against himself. He demonstrates clearly that he is neither a scholar, a reader or a man of letters and very little of a gentleman. His ignorance of French literature is something appalling.”
I think I fell in love with this writer a little bit more! Talk about putting it all out there, she's definitely letting him know how she feels. Throughout the rest of the piece she chews up and spits out Twain, calling him awkward, shallow and his works mediocre. Giving him no credit as an author and pretty much says he will never be a good enough writer in her eyes. It baffles her that he gets the same recognition as other writers who are better and more deserving (such as Lowell).
“He is not a reader nor a thinker nor a man who loves art of any kind. He is a clever Yankee who has made a “good thing” out of writing. He has been published in the North American Review and in the Century, but he is not and never will be a part of literature.”

Another writer that we're all familiar with is Henry James, by recently reading his story “Daisy Miller”. Cather had many positive comments in regards to James. Applauding him and not only claiming him to be the master of language but an artist as well.
“Now that Stevenson is dead I can think of but one English speaking author who is really keeping his self-respect and sticking for perfection. Of course I refer to that mighty master of language and keen student of human actions and motives, Henry James.”
Cather goes on to say how his pieces are flawless. His style and the way he uses words to make them flow is mesmerizing. His sentences, the tone and formatting, makes his phrases magnificent. Finding it alluring and fascinating, she's stating the perfection of his technique. She's praising James with his timeless pieces of work and as an admirable writer.
“If his character novels were all wrong one could read him forever for the mere beauty of his sentences. He never lets his phrases run away with him. They are never dull and never too brilliant. He subjects them to the general tone of his sentence and has his whole paragraph partake of the same predominating color. You are never startled, never surprised, never thrilled or never enraptured; always delighted by that masterly prose that is as correct, as classical, as calm and as subtle as the music of Mozart.”

Amazing and interesting views from Cather made her a joy to research upon!
Willa Cather is an author, artist and a visual genius.
"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
Reflecting upon her past memories of land, life and friendships, Cather has provided readers with books derived from passion that will never grow old.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mary Wilkins Freeman: How to become a successful female author

Over a period of 46 years, Mary Wilkins Freeman authored over 250 short stories, of which approximately 50 are considered by Mary Wilkins Freeman: A study of short fiction to be well-executed stories, “making her work worthy of the critical reevaluation it has received.”  The sheer bulk of her writing is something to marvel at; her contribution as a female author in her time is something else that deserves attention.  Not only did Freeman craft widely-read stories, but she also gave advice to aspiring female authors, sharing her experiences and wisdom to help others navigate the fickle literary world.  In a way, Freeman wrote a manual (albeit it one that was spread throughout her short stories, letters, and instructional writings) that gave step-by-step instructions to those willing to find the pieces and put them together.  Drawing on a number of primary sources, I have reconstructed what I consider to be some of Freeman's most important points.

            Step 1: Don’t imitate others; be your own mentor.
Freeman placed a great deal of emphasis on a female author’s need to write independently “and courageously.” Freeman’s work reflects broad interests and perspectives, and she encouraged those who desired to become authors to write about what they knew and felt inspired by.  She cautioned aspiring authoresses against the perceived power of the editor; Freeman referred to the editor as “only human” and equipped with little creativity.  She viewed this unimaginative human editor as an important reason for a young writer to “learn to be her own mentor.”  This move would allow a female writer to decide for herself what kind of writer she would like to be, an ideal that Freeman herself held dear.

            Step 2: Let your stories unfold organically.
Freeman characterized herself as a sequential author, one whose work emerged organically, “taking shape during the writing process.”  In one of her exchanges with an editor, she stated that she “never [knew] much about a story…. If [she] did try to force the knowledge, and abide by it, [she] [feared] [she] should spoil it.” In this way Freeman warned aspiring writers against finishing stories before they were truly ready to end.  Freeman also remarked that many of her stories “had been in [her] head a matter of a dozen years” until she was able to formulate them on paper.  

            Step 3: Don’t impose yourself upon the narrator.
Henry James was a major figure in the American Realism canon who brought such ideas as “narrative consciousness” and “effaced narrator” into light.  He didn’t believe that the narrator should have so much control as being the voice of reality because realistically, everyone is biased.  This idea has become one of the central tenets of realism.  Freeman also wanted to avoid a moralizing narrator, and wanted to impress upon female writers the necessity of a writer “leaving herself out of the whole proposition” of narration.  She pointed out that an authoress’ personal emotions and experiences were probably insignificant to the rest of the world.  For this reason, she felt it important that the author not tie herself too closely to the narrative voice.  This is not to say that the author cannot push her ideas into her own work, but to rather to weave the moral aspect of a story separate from the narration.

            Step 4: Be clear.
Freeman insisted upon a writer’s clarity.  She wished to show aspiring authors that it was important to be simple and direct, to “write even about difficult themes in such a way that a child can understand.”  In this way, Freeman warns against incorporating every detail.  In consistently considering clarity, a writer will create a story that is more easily read and retained as well as open to interpretation by readers.  By not mentioning everything in the story, an author leaves some of the story to the imagination, a quality that exists in all good writing.  A short, focused story, Freeman argued, would convey a point better than a needlessly specific one.

Step 5:  It doesn’t matter why you write, but do it well.
Freeman wanted to impress upon aspiring female writers that as long as a strong work was produced, the reason behind it was not of the greatest importance.  She noted that “a man may write… for the sake of something rather ignoble, and a woman may write… to buy a French hat.”  She wanted to show those who desired to become authors that they could be writing for any reason under the sun, be it economic shortcomings, a desire for fame, or to buy a French hat.  However, she also wanted to impress upon them that their reasons for writing should not be the focus.  She urged aspiring authors to write “conscientiously and steadily,” focusing on creating a solid, resilient story rather than the reason for their writing. 

            Step 6: Encourage competitive bidding among publishers.
 Freeman was an author, but she was also a businesswoman.  She wanted to get the most money for her works that she could, and would write to various publishers to haggle about pricing and the worth of her stories.  In 1893 she wrote to Harper Bros. giving them prices that other publishers had offered (or allegedly offered) and stating that Harper Bros. should consider paying her more, as it seemed to her “a fair comparative price.”  Freeman wanted to show those who wished to become authors that it was important to take an active role in the publishing of their respective works.  In this way, each author would likely get the most for her work and show that she was not willing to passively take less than her work deserved.
            Step 6: Set a production pace.
After Freeman became more established as an author, she made it a priority to stick to a schedule.  Her work was in such high demand that she often found herself tired and uninspired.  Publishers soon found that they had to “accept the pace of production [Freeman] set.”  In this way, Freeman would be able to take her time, and as she put it “do [her] very prettiest.”  This sense of being able to control production was something that Freeman truly appreciated.  She was able to control the quality of her work through the pace in which she wrote.  This concept is particularly in keeping with Step 2, which pushes for letting stories unfold organically.  She wanted to convey to those who desired to become authors that it is better to develop a strong, powerful story over a long period of time than to crank out frivolous stories quickly.  This idea also kept publishers and readers wanting more; this shrewd business move ensured that publishers would print her work and that her readership wouldn’t dwindle.

Mary Wilkins Freeman was an author, a businesswoman, and someone who wanted to help guide a new generation of female authors.  She had a great deal of influence on short stories “written by and about women.”  This influence and guidance came in the form of letters, stories, and magazine articles.  Her advice helped inspire the new female author to be in control of her own work and to write well.

Johanningsmeier, Charles. "Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary E. Wilkins (Freeman): Two Shrewd       Businesswomen in Search of New Markets." The New England Quarterly Mar. 1997.
Reichardt, Mary R.. Mary Wilkins Freeman: a study of the short fiction. New York: Twayne   Publishers; 1997. Print.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The radical Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of America's most prominent feminist writers. Her most famous work "The Yellow Wallpaper" can be seen as a biographical documentation of the literary kind. The work was seen as radical and somewhat terrifying among critics of her day, but then again so was Gilman herself. With naught but her pen and intellect Gilman, in direct defiance of the treatment she was about to take a stand against, wrote what is known to be the most accurate documentation of mental illness as seen from the view of the patient.

The treatment she was speaking out against was the 'rest cure'; it's when patients have only two intellectual hours each day and never do anything creative- ever. Doctor Silias Weir Mitchel was the creator, and most of the patients that received this treatment were female. The reasoning behind Gilman's adamant hatred for the 'rest cure' was not only the fact that it did nothing but worsen her depression, but it also was intended to break the patients will and give in to that of his or (most of the time) her doctor. For a feminist like Gilman she was not willing to go quietly with a treatment where she lost all sense of herself and trusted completely in a man.

"The Yellow Wallpaper" was published in 1892 in The New England Magazine. There were many criticisms of the piece. Two of which Gilman mentions in her apologia; the first one being from a physician where he states, "Such a story ought not to be written..it was enough to drive anyone mad to read it." The other from a different physician stating "the best description of incipient insanity he had ever seen." Even William Dean Howells chimed in saying it was a story to "freeze our blood."

When done writing the story, Gilman had sent it to the physician who had sent her home with orders of the 'rest cure'; He never responded.