On the Divide: The Many Lives of Willa Cather
Porter, David. On the Divide: The Many Lives of Willa Cather. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
Although the book is a study on Cather and the relationship between her life and her writing, Porter finds in Cather’s writing “insistent reminders of Mary Baker Eddy which bubble up as if from an obsessive subconscious, shaping characters and themes so that they recall Eddy even as they resist [Eddy’s] influence” (102). Based on Porter’s hypothesis that Cather deals with Eddy on a subconscious level, Cather’s relationship to Eddy takes on a somewhat psychological tenor. Porter finds in Cather’s writing a ‘divide’ (in reference to the book’s title) between an admiration for Eddy’s worldly success and disdain for her flawed character and theology. Porter draws on his own assessment of Eddy only from Cather’s purported writing about her in a McClure’s Magazine series, even though Cather herself consistently denied its authorship. Through his analysis of Eddy, Porter also presents a hypothetical psychoanalysis of Cather herself. Cather compares Samuel McClure (her publisher) and Eddy, ironically ignoring the negative traits in McClure and emphasizing the same traits she observes in Eddy. Porter’s psychoanalysis of Cather concludes she may have seen more of herself in Eddy than she wanted to see: strong-willed, ambitious, shrewd, intense, and selfish.
ISBN-13 (Hardcover): 978-0803237551
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