Willa Cather and the Readerly Imagination

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Willa Cather Foundation
contact email: 

Willa Cather and the Readerly Imagination

In her own time as in ours, Willa Cather’s books created vibrant and varied communities of readers. Cather’s literary works detail numerous acts of reading, and she herself was an avid reader with an acute awareness of the reading public. The 69th Annual Willa Cather Spring Conference seeks to celebrate and explore both the act of reading Cather and the presence of reading and readers within Cather’s fiction and letters. The conference will be held Thursday, June 6 – Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

The directors invite papers on a variety of topics related to Cather, readers, and reading, including but not limited to the following areas.


  • Representations of readers and reading in Cather’s novels and short stories


  • How readers navigate challenging topics in Cather’s fiction.


  • Book clubs, both historical and contemporary, and their approaches to Cather.


  • Teaching and pedagogical approaches; digital reading and/or the use of archival materials/Cather Archive documents.


  • Reading Cather alongside banned or challenged books.


  • Diverse communities of readers: women; immigrants; LGBTQ+ communities; Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities; disability communities; religious communities.


  • Reading and affect: how emotions such as joy, grief, pleasure, and escape, are evoked by or represented in Cather’s works.


  • Cather as a reader: the works and authors she read and their influence on her writing; her personal library; and her family’s library.


  • Reader responses: how physical copies of Cather’s work (illustrations, typography, dust jacket and book cover design) affect readers’ reception; how audiobook features and narration shape how readers experience Cather’s work. responses.


  • Genre: reading Cather within and beyond specific genres, including poetry, regionalism, modernism, the history of the novel. 


  • Reading Cather alongside her contemporaries


Proposals of no more than 500 words should describe papers or presentations approximately twenty minutes long. Innovative formats are encouraged. Abstracts, along with a short bio, your contact information and institutional affiliation, should be submitted to Rachel Olsen, Director of Education and Engagement, via the 2024 Spring Conference Proposal Form by March 1, 2024. Responses to proposals will be sent by mid-March. At this time we intend to offer an in-person conference but remain committed to offering digital programming to our audiences. Accepted speakers are asked, therefore, to prepare a video recording of their paper for submission by May 22, 2024, for our digital conference platform. Questions may be directed to Rachel Olsen or Sarah Clere and Kelsey Squire, Academic Advisors of the 2024 Spring Conference, at sarahclere@gmail.com or squirekelsey@gmail.com. Additional information about the conference can be found here: https://www.willacather.org/events/spring-conference