English Honors Papers

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Michelle Neely

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This thesis interrogates the theme of progress in Willa Cather’s novels of the American West. Using queer theory as a critical framework, I argue that Cather’s novels queer the literary elements of setting–both time and place–in order to understand the discontents which arise in a constantly modernizing and progressing American culture. I recognize a connection between these discontents and the modern American culture which separates humans from nonhuman nature. Cather’s novels also recognize this separation. Through her narratives, Cather proposes a return to pastoral ideals of settler colonialism in order to reestablish this relationship between human and non-human nature. However, I identify the settler colonial land ethic of anthropocentrism as a root cause of the separation between humans and their environment. I argue it is impossible to find solutions to this discontent of anthropocentric modernity. Here, I use the queer analytical framework of destabilization to imagine beyond the system of settler colonialism to a future that might reestablish this connection between humans and their environment.

Available for download on Monday, May 22, 2023



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.