Research Interests

Submitted by Michele Barale
I am presently precariously balanced, and possibly more often actually tottering, between two disciplines – literature and art – and three interests: Willa Cather, modernism, and photography.  If I also add in interests such as gender, queerness, and something that might be called the sociology of aesthetic influence, my equilibrium becomes either more agile or downright dangerous. One more image of what I am trying to accomplish: when you rub odd things against one another you are unable to predict what might result: sometimes the gears just don’t mesh; other times they spark. I cannot yet tell what is happening with all these pieces. Cather’s interest in telling stories of art and artists has encouraged useful critical interest in her knowledge of music and musicians and painters and painting.  Unremarked upon as yet, however, is photography’s meaning for Cather as someone who scorns both realism and romanticism (but loves French and American Impressionism), and as the subject of numerous photographs, both formal and vernacular.  I am trying to make sense of Cather’s desire to quite literally see herself as artist even as she refuses to accept as art the literally representational.  My most recent publications focus on Cather’s aesthetics and the complex parts desire and history play in the discovery and creation of beauty.