In this brilliant, impassioned and controversial book, New Yorker critic Joan Acocella argues that twentieth-century literary critics from the Left and Right have misused Willa Cather and her works for their own political ends, and, in doing so, have either ignored or obscured her true literary achievement. In an acute and often very funny critique of the critics, Acocella untangles Cather's reputation from decades of politically motivated misreadings, and proposes her own clear-headed view of Cather’s genius. At once a graceful summary of Cather's life and work, and a refreshing plea that books be read for themselves, Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism will also inspire readers to return to one of America's great novelists.
Joan Acocella is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she covers dance and books. She has also written for The New York Review of Books and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the critical biography Mark Morris; Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder; and Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism. She edited the unexpurgated Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky and, with Lynn Garafola, André Levinson on Dance. Acocella was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York.
A first-class book, a landmark of sorts. . . . Cather emerges as what she really is, a person of great literary accomplishment, a true cultural beacon. --RWB Lewis
“She is…a marvelous, canny writer.”–Terry Castle, London Review of Books
"Acocella’s book shines with exemplary good sense. . . . She is a sure witted judge of books." A.S. Byatt, The New York Review of Books
“As a study of the politics of literary reputation [this book] is exceptional; as a serene appreciation of a great writer's life and work, it is poetic; as a reminder to critics of a the function of criticism, it is harrowing. This book needs to be read." --Robert Thacker, American Literature
“This devastatingly concise book isn’t going to win its fearless author any prizes — she marches through the ranks of Cather scholars the way Sherman marched through Georgia — but anyone who has had it up to here with political correctness should buy a copy . . . and get ready to cheer” — Terry Teachout, National Review
Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism by Joan Acocella