May 6, 2009
Former faculty members edit new book on novelist Willa Cather
Two former Northwest faculty members are co-editors of "Teaching the Works of Willa Cather," a book of essays that examines the novels and short fiction of the noted 20th century writer who grew up in Red Cloud, Neb.
Dr. Virgil Albertini, distinguished emeritus professor of English, taught at Northwest from 1965 until his retirement in 1998. He is the author of critical and bibliographical works on Cather and the literature of American realism. In addition, he and his wife, Dolores Albertini, wrote "Towers in the Northwest: A History of Northwest Missouri State University."
Dr. Steven Shively was a member of the University's Department of English from 1999 until 2007. He is currently an associate professor of English at Utah State University, where he teaches courses in English education and American literature. Shively has published a number of scholarly articles on Cather and other Great Plains writers.
In addition to assembling and editing the 19 essays that make up "Teaching the Works of Willa Cather," Albertini and Shively are founding co-editors of "Teaching Cather," a semi-annual journal dedicated to Cather literature and pedagogy. Both are also active members of the Board of Governors of the Cather Foundation.
Published by Northwest's GreenTower Press and designed by Teresa Carter of the Office of University Relations, the 284-page book is designed as a resource for teachers who present Cather's work to college and secondary school students.
"Cather's books and stories are widely taught in both high schools and colleges and universities," Shively said, "and we believe this book is a unique blend of literary criticism and pedagogy."
Topics covered by the essays include critical examinations of specific works, including "One of Ours" and "My Ántonia"; comparisons of Cather with writers such as fellow Nebraskan John Neihardt; and a section offering insights into sources and resources for teachers, including the Internet, television and film.
Albertini and Shively founded the "Teaching Cather" journal at Northwest in 2000 with support from the University's Culture of Quality, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English. Though now published at Utah State University, Shively said he and Albertini have worked to maintain their Cather-related ties to Northwest as well as high school and college teachers across the Midwest.
"It was important to us that this book celebrate our ongoing relationship with Northwest," Shively said. "We are proud of the work done by Teresa Carter and (University Photographer) Darren Whitley in the Office of University Relations, and we hope the book demonstrates our continuing commitment to our Northwest roots. Northwest has long been noted for the quality of its teacher-training programs and English department, as well as its ongoing service to the larger education community. We hope this book honors and helps continue that tradition."
"Teaching the Works of Willa Cather" is dedicated to the late scholar Susan J. Rosowski, an Adele Hall Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who died in 2004. Shively said it was Rosowski who came up with the idea of a journal dedicated to teaching Cather, and who inspired him and Albertini to turn her concept into reality.
"She believed that Northwest Missouri State University, with its strong traditions of teacher training, literary scholarship and service to teachers at all levels was the ideal place for this project," he said. "We hope this book celebrates and calls attention to outstanding teaching while inspiring new approaches to teaching the work of an enduring American author."
During their years of teaching and scholarship at Northwest, Albertini and Shively created a strong identification between Cather studies and the University, which is home to a complete first-edition set of the author's works. Housed in the B.D. Owens Library, the collection was acquired through a substantial gift from Mrs. Charles (Lela) Bell and matching funds from the Northwest Foundation.
To support this rare holding, the library has developed a noteworthy collection of scholarly materials about Cather, including biographies, annotated bibliographies, criticism and memorabilia.
Willa Sibert Cather was born in 1873 and died in 1947. She is best known for her depictions of frontier life on the Great Plains in novels such as "O Pioneers!" "My Ántonia," and "The Song of the Lark." She received the Pulitzer Prize for "One of Ours" in 1923.
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