Date of Award

7-18-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Audrey Goodman - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Hocks

Third Advisor

Dr. Nancy Chase

Abstract

Willa Cather contests the contemporary notion that identification links to a natural or original order. For example, that man equals masculine and femininity comes from an essential connection to woman. Cather deconstructs normativity through her use of character relationships in order to redefine successful interpersonal alliances. Thus, Alexandra, the protagonist of O Pioneers! builds a home and friendships that exemplify alternatives to stasis. My readings of O Pioneers! display the places in the novel where Cather subtly contests the ideology of naturalization. I make lesbian erotic and queer social interactions visible through a discourse on Cather’s symbolism. I favor queer theory as a mode of inquiry that magnifies the power and presence of heteronormativity and I examine Cather’s work as a critique of cultural principles that inflict violence against individuals who participate in dissent from conformity.

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