The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather & Edith Lewis

ISBN : 9780190652876

Melissa J. Homestead
400 ページ
156 x 235 mm
  • Provides a behind-the-scenes look at Cather's creative process
  • Draws on in-depth archival research
  • Presents a fresh perspective on lesbian life in 20th-century America
  • Richly illustrated with photographs and documents from Cather and Lewis's travels and literary collaborations

A groundbreaking new look at American novelist Willa Cather's creative process
What would Willa Cather's widely read and cherished novels have looked like if she had never met magazine editor and copywriter Edith Lewis? In this groundbreaking book on Cather's relationship with her life partner, author Melissa J. Homestead counters the established portrayal of Cather as a solitary genius and reassesses the role that Lewis, who has so far been rendered largely invisible by scholars, played in shaping Cather's work. Inviting Lewis to share the spotlight alongside this pivotal American writer, Homestead argues that Lewis was not just Cather's companion but also her close literary collaborator and editor.
Drawing on an array of previously unpublished sources, Homestead skillfully reconstructs Cather and Lewis's life together, from their time in New York City to their travels in the American Southwest that formed the basis of the novels The Professor's House and Death Comes for the Archbishop. After Cather's death and in the midst of the Cold War panic over homosexuality, the story of her life with Edith Lewis could not be told, but by telling it now, Homestead offers a refreshing take on lesbian life in early twentieth-century America.



Chapter 1: Nebraska, New England, New York: Mapping the Foreground of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis's Creative Partnership
Chapter 2: Office Bohemia: At Home in Greenwich Village, At Work in the Magazines
Chapter 3: "Our Wonderful Adventures in the Southwest": Willa Cather and Edith Lewis's Southwestern Collaborations
Chapter 4: "The Thing Not Named": Edith Lewis's Advertising Career and Willa Cather's Fiction and Celebrity in the 1920s
Chapter 5: "Edith and I hope to get away to Grand Manan": Work, Play, and Community at Whale Cove
Chapter 6: "We are the only wonderful things": The Late Lives and Deaths of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis
Epilogue: The Edith Lewis Ghost


Melissa J. Homestead, Professor of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Melissa J. Homestead is Professor of English and Program Faculty in Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A graduate of Smith College and the University of Pennsylvania, she has published widely on American women's writing and authorship from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. She serves as Director of the Cather Project and Associate Editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather: A Digital Edition.

"At last! — an in-depth look at how Edith Lewis, the woman with whom Willa Cather lived in domestic partnership for almost forty years, was central to both her life and her literary career. By foregrounding the crucial role played by Lewis (remarkable in her own right), Homestead gives us valuable new insights into the way Cather, the artist, worked and the way Cather, the woman who loved women, lived her life." - Lillian Faderman, author of To Believe In Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America — a History

"Melissa Homestead has accomplished something beautiful and profound: she has recovered a decades-long relationship that has been ignored and minimized, introducing us to the complex life of Edith Lewis and reframing what we thought we knew about Willa Cather and her writing. The research is remarkable, the product of years of dogged work, and it is woven together to tell a story of love and creativity that we all need to know. I cherish the book and the vision it offers." - Andrew Jewell, co-editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather