Date of Award

Fall 12-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Audrey Goodman

Second Advisor

Dr. Nancy Chase

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark Noble


Willa Cather's 1913 novel, O Pioneers! concludes with an unexpected moment of extreme violence as two young lovers, Emil Bergson and Marie Shabata, are murdered by Marie's husband in a mulberry orchard. Cather's novel is almost wholly devoted to the psychological interior of the protagonist, Alexandra Bergson, thereby rendering this violent interruption more dynamic as it essentially undercuts the generally lulling interiority of the narration. My interest here is to examine this strange moment of violence and Alexandra's subsequent forgiveness of Frank for the murder of her brother and his own wife through the theoretical paradigms of René Girard, Jacques Derrida, and Slavoj Žižek.