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J Homosex. 1986 May;12(3-4):89-98.

My gay Antonia: the politics of Willa Cather's lesbianism.

Abstract

Although Willa Cather's lesbianism has recently been publicly acknowledged, her personal and artistic political decisions about the revelation of her sexual preference have not been explored. Most critics who acknowledge Cather's homosexuality see no traces in her fiction of what Lillian Faderman calls "same-sex love." Because of the political consequences of writing openly about lesbianism in the time that Cather came of age, according to Faderman, "perhaps she felt the need to be more reticent about love between women than even some of her patently heterosexual contemporaries because she bore a burden of guilt for what came to be labeled perversion." While it would certainly have been possible for Cather to live a discreet lesbian life without showing traces of her sexuality in her writing, it is more likely that her sexual preferences are present in her works, particularly in her most autobiographical book, My Antonia, in the character who represents Cather, Jim Burden. The "emptiness where the strongest emotion might have been expected," the relationship between Antonia and Jim, is more understandable when we realize that both Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda were imagined by Cather as homosexuals whose deep friendship was based on mutual understanding of their oddness in the heterosexual world of 1918.

PMID:
3531325
DOI:
10.1300/J082v12n03_08
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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