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   from the issue of March 24, 2005

Reynolds takes helm of varied Cather activities


Cambridge, Nebraska, lies three counties west of Webster County, the location of Red Cloud, the childhood home of Willa Cather.

Guy Reynolds
 Guy Reynolds

The new director of the Cather Project at UNL came to know Cather from Cambridge. Cambridge, England, that is. Guy Reynolds earned his doctorate in American literature at Cambridge University, focusing on Cather. He has since published Willa Cather in Context, as well as a study of American women's fiction that deals extensively with her work.

Despite being at a distance from Cather's environs in England, Reynolds was familiar with the primary sources concerning the writer. He did three months of field work at UNL in the late 1980s, working in the Red Cloud archives and at the UNL Libraries.

He established contact with scholars at UNL, including Susan Rosowski, who was the nation's preeminent Cather scholar and former coordinator of Cather scholarly efforts. Rosowski died Nov. 2, 2004, at age 62 from cancer.

Reynolds came to UNL in 2003, worked with Rosowski, taught classes on Cather and settled into being one of the Cather scholars associated with the project. He was appointed director in February.

He had become aware of Cather's works when they were reprinted in England after having been out of print in the 1960s and 1970s.

"The books came back into print when I was beginning my graduate career, so that's one of the reasons I began to work on Cather," Reynolds said. "It looked as if no one was working on Cather, though that was not true.

"A lot of supposedly marginal or forgotten or relatively unread female writers in the 1970s and 1980s were being reprinted then and written about as if for the first time," Reynolds said. "There was a kind of rediscovery going on.

"There was a degree of excitement to reading Cather at that time," he said.

UNL has been the center for Cather studies since the 1960s. Important early Cather scholars such as Virginia Faulkner and Bernice Slote worked at UNL. Like Reynolds, many academics were getting interested in Cather in the late 1980s. At the time, UNL, the University Libraries and the town of Red Cloud started building up resources. The pre-eminence of Rosowski's scholarship and her leadership in building interest in Cather propelled UNL to the forefront of Cather studies.

The centerpiece of the Cather effort is the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition. Reynolds coordinates an editorial team comprised of senior and emeritus professors.

A scholarly edition is a heavily documented, authenticated edition, where all of the textual variants, emendations, and revisions made by the author are taken into account. The Modern Language Association provides the seal of approval for scholarly editions, vetting the work to make sure it adheres to its standards.

There are six volumes complete. Reynolds expects the project to be completed by 2010.

In addition to the Cather Scholarly Editions, Reynolds oversees several other Cather-related endeavors.

A Cather Web site at is under way, created in association with the Libraries' e-text unit. In addition to containing a wealth of scholarship, the site will have a recruitment angle.

"We got an e-mail from a woman in Japan, saying that she would like to do some studying at UNL using her Fulbright," Reynolds said. He encouraged her to come to UNL.

This incident led Reynolds to think of ways to encourage potential students to consider UNL for Cather studies.

Reynolds is considering having graduate students write about their research experiences and posting their reflections on the Web. There will be a link to the International Affairs Office. Languages other than English will be used in descriptions of the program.

Reynolds also oversees the soliciting of articles and the editing of "Cather Studies." The periodical is the main forum for Cather scholarship. It is published by the University of Nebraska Press.

Reynolds is also responsible for staging an international conference on Cather coming June 18-25, 2005. The conference will include tours of Red Cloud and Lincoln and plenary sessions with keynote speakers, as well as a session in the Libraries' special collections.

There will be plenty of work for Reynolds and Cather scholars to do on Cather's wide-ranging written output.

"The thing about Cather is that there is a large array of things she produced, in journalism, novels, short stories, poetry, and biography," Reynolds said. "We have some interest in most of those things."



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