2013 Student Research Conference:
26th Annual Student Research Conference

Deconstruction of Gender in Willa Cather's O Pioneers!
Holly E. Fling♦
Dr. Alanna Preussner, Faculty Mentor

On the surface, Willa Cathers O Pioneers! is a historical novel about the American frontier, focusing on a prospering pioneer family. A deeper exploration of the text, however, presents conflicting interpretations in relation to gender. On the one hand, Cather's main character, Alexandra Bergson, rejects traditional female gender roles to take responsibility for her siblings and family farm after her father's death, demonstrating her entitlement to a presence in the public sphere normally reserved for men. On the other hand, taking on this responsibility shapes Alexandra into a caretaker, a role that is often connected with women in the private sphere. Alexandra's romantic interest, Carl, also demonstrates gender fluidity. Their flexibility in gender performance invites the deconstruction of two specific themes presented in the novel, Nebraskan pioneers and romantic relationships, focusing on Alexandra and Carl's experiences on the frontier, as well as their relationship.

Keywords: 20th-century American literature, American history, Willa Cather, Nebraska, Pioneers, Gender expectations, Public versus private sphere, Romantic relationships

American Studies
Women's and Gender Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 110-1
Location: VH 1320
Time: 8:00

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♦ Indicates Truman Graduate Student
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